A Tea Party Trouncing in New Hampshire

June 24, 2013
Q: How do you take a 194-seat Tea Party majority and undo it in a single election?
A: You Call Us!
Down but not Out
After the 2010 election, progressives in New Hampshire found themselves backed against a corner as conservatives took control of the State House by a wide margin, 298-104. The result was a State General Assembly hostile to working Americans, public schools, and women’s rights. Taking back that many seats in a single election cycle felt like an insurmountable task, but that’s exactly what progressive groups in New Hampshire endeavored to do in 2012 - and that’s exactly where Wellstone Action could help them win. Together, we brought to life our vision of a comprehensive, collaborative political leadership pipeline – and we won.
A Bold Plan to Take Back New Hampshire
To take back their state, progressive groups, including organized labor, knew they’d have to undertake a bold organizing strategy to reenergize the movement – one built around a common vision of candidate recruitment, training, and support.
Enter a coalition of dozens of key partners, progressive individuals and organizations that teamed up with a singular focus to empower prospective candidate and re-build a movement. A major component of this collaboration was Wellstone Action’s leadership to design, develop, and implement a bold training program for candidates and staff from across the progressive community. Funded by SEIU International and supported through their Local 1984’s Member Candidate Program (MCP), Wellstone Action provided the training and strategic planning expertise they’d need to win big in 2012 and beyond.
This pipeline program started early with a December 2011 training on recruiting candidates attended by top progressives in the state. Brian Hawkins, Government Relations Coordinator for the SEIU local, noted “The partnership with Wellstone was critical; it helped local staff focus on how to find and recruit top-tier candidates.”
Once candidates were recruited, a series of trainings during the first half of 2012 prepared them for their campaign. A progressive leaders training in February helped motivate upwards of 40 candidates to throw their hat in the ring. An April 2012 train-the-trainer session prepared regional trainers to bring a condensed version of the progressive leaders training to suburban and rural parts of the state, which recruited even more candidates.
Most substantially, a three-day boot camp for candidates and campaign managers in May 2012 prepared them for the road ahead: writing a campaign plan, targeting voters, working with the media, and making your pitch at the doors. Finally, once the filing deadline passed, additional one-day trainings were offered over the summer, to hone skills and maintain momentum leading up to the fall.
As two alumni of our New Hampshire training program reported about their campaigns:
"I went out and did it the “Wellstone Way.” Budgets, lists, door-knocks, media, addressing groups, identifying categories of potential voters, win numbers, and more …Thank You, Wellstone Action. You make a difference and it’s why I’m serving today."
- Paul Berch, newly elected New Hampshire State Representative
"I really jumped into this election without any experience in campaigns. I must admit there were times during that weekend when I wondered if I had taken on more than I could handle. But, establishing a mindset of going for the seat and developing a stump speech in which I found my message were invaluable for me and served me well throughout the race."

-  Linda Tanner, newly elected New Hampshire State Representative
Wellstone Action’s collaborative leadership with our partners in New Hampshire produced big results. Says Hawkins, “One great thing about Wellstone is their trainers: they are excellent, great at challenging the candidates, and flexible to tailor their training for what works in our state.” Continues Hawkins, “In conservative-leaning districts, Wellstone’s trainings were absolutely the difference between victory and defeat; statewide, it’s the difference for us being in the majority instead of the minority.”
We didn’t just take back the New Hampshire House. We dominated, gaining 120 progressive seats in a single election. Of course, candidate pipeline programs are about building long-term progressive power, not a quick fix – but in the case of New Hampshire, we achieved both. In total, this collaboration of progressive organizations recruited 117 candidates, trained 112 (including volunteers), and when the votes were tallied, fully 65% of our candidates won, the Wellstone Way.
Our work in New Hampshire proved what Wellstone Action is all about: elected office is not just the domain of the wealthy and well connected. Regular people can run – and win – when armed with the hard skills and the right support to bring their progressive vision for change forward, the Wellstone Way. Wellstone Action couldn’t be prouder to have been a part of it all. And we’re fired up to take on another New Hampshire in 2014.