Voices of the New Hampshire Primary: What Brought You Here?

Giving Voters The Microphone

New Hampshire voters attending a Nikki Haley rally waiting for the Republican candidate to take the stage

A collection of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have toured the Granite State of New Hampshire this weekend leading up to Tuesday’s pivotal presidential primary. At each and every meet-and-greet, rally, and town hall, candidate appearances were populated by both NH residents and non-residents who attended with specific questions and messages for these candidates as well as fellow voters.

Below is a collage of attendees’ stories regarding their personal beliefs, political messages, reasons why they attended a corresponding candidate’s event, and essentially their response to the question: what brought you here? Presidential candidates’ voices are heard nationally, but that is not the case for most voters. So here are some of their stories:

Protecting The Kids

A.J. Perno, a 16-year-old student from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, PA, attended Democratic candidate Dean Phillips’s event at Margarita’s Mexican Restaurant in Concord, NH, on Friday with a question that turned heads throughout the room. Citing his own worries as well as the safety of his two younger brothers, Perno asked Phillips about the frequency of school shootings in America and how President Biden’s challenger plans to tackle gun violence in the country.

Perno’s two younger brothers are Nick and Connor, ages 14 and 8. “It’s a big issue for me because I see it on the news and I am not in the same school as them because they’re in middle school right now and as the oldest brother, I feel like it’s my burden to protect them,” said Perno when later asked about why he posed his attention-grabbing question. “That’s why the school shootings and anyone being able to get a gun and just shooting scares me,” he added, “I feel more scared for my brothers in middle school and the threat of them losing their life such as in Uvalde, TX.”

When asked how he would go about fixing the problem himself, Perno said, “I think we should raise the age of owning a gun to 21, because if you can’t drink but you can own a gun, I find that kind of ironic in a sense. You’re not responsible enough to drink alcohol, but you are responsible enough to own a gun, a weapon that can kill you, and kill someone else.” Perno also spoke of assault rifle bans and bans on machine guns. According to the Sandy Hook Promise, guns are the leading cause of death among American children and teens. Instead of gun control, Phillips offered the term “gun violence prevention” when answering Perno’s question as to how he would protect America in office moving forward.

A Cowboy’s Jacket

Howard ‘Cowboy’ Woolridge, a retired police officer and now law enforcement agent in Congress who represents 7,000 professionals in Washington D.C., stood outside of a Nikki Haley rally in Keene, NH, on Saturday wearing a jacket that said, “COPS SAY LEGALIZE HEROIN. ASK ME WHY.” Active for 18 years, Woolridge encountered several war veterans throughout his career as well as young child victims of sexual assault, all suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). He claims that drugs containing hallucinogens have proven to cure these victims’ PTSD, and also that the prohibition of these drugs is actually resulting in even greater drug problems across the rest of the country. 

“Maybe this could help them,” Woolridge explained, “Because it [hallucinogens] does rewire the brain somehow. Now I’m just so excited, that maybe now, in the ‘20s, we’re going to do the research. [We] just got a bill passed through Congress by two veterans with research on these magic mushrooms, these hallucinogens, to help everybody through their PTSD from whatever cause, whether you were raped as a child or you went to combat and you got messed up.” Woolridge also cited the 20th century Prohibition as an example of history where preventing substance use only made the problem worse. He believes that legalizing these drugs would save lives, and he traveled to NH to call upon these presidential candidates to do so. 

“I’m asking every member of Congress to be or become, on the issue of constituents who have a drug problem, vehemently pro-life. We should be doing everything in New Hampshire and elsewhere to help a person get from Saturday to Sunday, and I mean anything,” Woolridge pleaded on Saturday outside of the Haley event, whom he believes has the best head on her shoulders to tackle this problem moving forward.

NH4 Ukraine

Brian Nolen, a member of NH4 Ukraine, stood outside of a Nikki Haley rally in Derry, NH, on Sunday with a sewn flag representing both America and Ukraine. When asked what brought him there that day, he replied, “I just want to show my support for Ukraine because a lot of Nikki Haley supporters support Ukraine as well so just to make them aware of our efforts being that we’re donor-driven. I’ve been over in Ukraine for about six months since the war started delivering humanitarian aid, especially where the fighting’s going on. So I just want to raise awareness of what we do and show support for Nikki Haley. I’m not a republican, per say, but I admire her courage standing up for Ukraine because it’s not the most popular stance.”

The Russia-Ukraine war has been going on for years now and American citizens are appalled at how current political figures have handled it thus far. Ukrainian activists in the United States have not been quiet, and they admire politicians and presidential candidates who have not been quiet either. Nolen concluded with, “So we’ll see. It’s a war of attrition now who’s gonna hold out the longest, you know? Does the United States have the military capacity and the political will to stand up for Ukraine? I admire Nikki Haley’s stance with all these issues.”

A Congresswoman’s Plea

Maria Perez is a New Hampshire State Representative. Serving as a Democrat for most of her life, Perez has recently switched to registering as an Independent in an effort to represent those who may not identify as either blue or red. Perez was present at a Democratic rally for presidential candidate Marianne Williamson in Nashua, NH, on Sunday, and took her opportunity to speak into the microphone by explaining why she became an independent and standing up for those who may think between the lines. 

When asked what inspired her to speak into the microphone and stand up for Independents, Perez answered, “People, especially in New Hampshire, Independent voters, they feel left out. That’s one of the reasons that I switched to Independent – because I felt like in the country people don’t realize the power of the Independent is huge.” She discussed how everything political in the U.S. always has two sides and how everything is black and white when in reality there are many other perspectives throughout the country that are just underrepresented. 

“I believe in human rights, I believe in certain things that the Democrats believe, but again they are pushing so much that they forget that there are some voices that need to be heard,” Perez concluded. She attended Williamson’s event to have her voice heard and endorse the other Biden challenger, and Williamson seemed grateful for Perez’s plea.

Sharing Their Voice

These NH primary attendees have shared their stories and political pleas, and now they wait to see the results of this action-packed presidential primary. NH voters will hit the polls on Tuesday to determine which presidential candidates will move forward in the race for the White House.

About Riley Chodoroff 2 Articles
Freshman Communication Studies Major from Klein College of Media & Communication at Temple University

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