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Granny D's presence felt at celebration in her honor

U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes addressed a crowd of more than 150 local Democrats on health care and campaign finance reform at Steele Hill Resort last Thursday night. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
September 09, 2009
SANBORNTON — Local Democrats from Belknap and Grafton County gathered at Steele Hill last Thursday evening to celebrate Doris "Granny D" Haddock and her work toward campaign finance reform.

The 150-plus people in attendance were disappointed to hear Granny D was unable to attend but given her age (100 this coming Jan. 24) and how busy she remains, they understood her absence.

Lynn Chong, an organizer of the annual event and chair of the Belknap County Democrats, explained Granny D had had a "very strenuous Tuesday" and sent her regrets, but had also forwarded her speech to Chong to read to those gathered at the resort.

Granny D expressed her desire for a wise and empathetic nation. She continues her push for public funding of political campaigns, which would allow the opportunity for the common man to a hold public office, not just the wealthy. Haddock feels pharmaceutical and insurance companies have too much influence in healthcare through their private funding of political campaigns. She scorned what she called the "fury" over a "sensible health care program," and felt the true battle is to open the hearts and the minds of young people to stand up for what they believe in.

"If I can keep going," Chong read from Haddock's speech, "so can you."

Paul Hodes, U.S. Congressman from New Hanpshire's District 2, took the podium to promise to keep up the fight for Campaign Finance Reform and for a health care program for all. He cited changes such as Michelle's Law, which originated through the hard work of N.H. resident Ann Marie Morse. Morse's daughter was denied insurance when she had to take a leave of absence from Plymouth State University to battle cancer. Regulations at the time of Michelle's illness did not allow coverage for a student not enrolled full-time. Michelle's Law now provides a one-year leave of absense for a student facing a serious illness or injury without a lapse in insurance coverage.

"Who knew one voice could make such a powerful difference?" Hodes said of Morse's endeavors. "There is nothing more important than health."

He emphasized that health care reform would need to provide a primary care physician. This type of health care would keep people healthy through regular medical care, thereby keeping costs down. His efforts in Washington have been geared toward allowing people choices in their healthcare. Hodes would also like to see a program that would strengthen Medicare, allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies for reasonable prices on prescription medications. He promised to continue to work toward a fair and affordable health care plan for all.

"I believe we can come up with something uniquely American," he said.

He went on to praise Granny D for her willingness to stand up and fight for what she believes in.

"What a champion she's been," he said, "in Campaign Finance Reform. She has been leading the way."

He said he and others in Washington would continue "pushing that issue until we get it right."

New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner was the other keynote speaker for the evening. Gardner, who said he doesn't normally attend such events, could not say no to a celebration for Granny D. It was 10 years ago, he said, that he first met Granny D in St. Louis when she was on her famed walk across America. Each year the Secretaries of State from around the U.S. present the Margaret Chase Smith Award. The award recognizes a person with uncommon courage, willing to stand up for their principles. Granny D was the 1999 recipient of the award and Gardner was impressed by both her speech and her determination to achieve Campaign Finance Reform. When the ceremony concluded, Gardner said he was approached by Ken Hechler, Secretary of State from West Virigina at the time, who joked, "Why is it whenever there's something nationally related to elections, New Hampshire is part of it?"

Gardner recalled the changes in campaign financing through the years in the state and nation. New Hampshire at one time had strict limits on campaign money but the federal government stepped in and revamped the sysytem. Now masters degrees in campaign finance and fund raising are even offered in colleges and universities across the nation. Many elected officials think there is no need for reform since they attained office through present practices, Gardner said, making it hard to get a consensus on reform. The average person, he continued, should always be able to maintain the hope that their children could one day hold a public office. Money is a major factor in campaigns however and that deters the average person from running for an office.

"That's what Granny D's march was all about," Gardner said. "Don't drown out opportunities of those who don't have as much as others."

Copies of Haddock's book, "You're Never Too Old to Raise A Little Hell," were available along with t-shirts and other items honoring her Campaign Finance Reform efforts.

As Hodes now seeks to become a U.S. Senator for New Hampshire, Democratic hopefuls for his seat in Congress were introduced at the conclusion of the evening, who spoke of grass roots campaigns, inspired by the evening's honoree.

Martin Lord & Osman
Varney Smith
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