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Democratic leaders gather at annual event

November 04, 2009
TAMWORTH — Democratic party leaders from the county and state turned out for the Carroll County Democratic Committee's 14th annual Grover Cleveland recent held Sunday afternoon at the Brass Heart Inn.

As is tradition, a popular attraction at this event is the appearance of President Grover Cleveland, as portrayed by his grandson, George Cleveland. But with equal enthusiasm, the crowd welcomed keynote speaker First District Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and guest speaker Congressman Paul Hodes (D-NH) who is running as the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate. This was Hodes first visit to Carroll County as a candidate for U.S. Senate.

In his speech, Hodes credited Shea-Porter with working hard in Washington for health care reform and for the best interests of working people. He also credited the committee for helping elect Shea-Porter to Washington. "Someone who really understands what Democrats are about and is moving the country forward is Carol She-Porter. You have worked your hearts out for her and good thing because have sent a great Congresswoman to the U.S. Congress," said Hodes. He also urged Democrats to look towards 2010. "Times are pretty tough. Folks are trying to keep their jobs. They want to put something away from their retirement. They want to see a doctor when they are sick. They want their kids to have better opportunities than they had. And just when you feel like things ought to be getting easier, the system somehow is upside down and things are tougher," he said. Hodes went on to tell the story of a college student, Michelle Morse, who was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her parent's insurance company would not cover her treatment unless she stayed enrolled in school, which she did despite doctors' advice to leave school for treatment. "The insurance company said, 'fine, she can leave school, but we're not paying for the treatments.'

"So the family faced a terrible choice. Michelle had a preexisting condition. They couldn't afford COBRA, they couldn't get a single policy for her so they made the terrible decision to stay in school. She had 48 weeks of chemotherapy treatments, graduated with honors, lost all her hair … and she died," said Hodes. Michelle's mother said she didn't want that to happen to any kid, any family in New Hampshire ever again so she began a one-woman crusade, said Hodes, and with help from some of the people in this room, she passed Michelle's Law in New Hampshire so a student could take a one-year leave of absence without getting knocked off their health insurance policy.

Hodes and Shea-Porter went to work on this issue in Washington, and on Oct. 9, Michelle's Law became the "law of the land," he said. Michelle's mother triumphed by standing up to the insurance companies, he added.

Another story was about veteran Chris Howe of Newport, whom Hodes had met at an event. He had been blown up in a Humvee while stationed in Iraq. He spent six months in a "cockroach infested motel with wallpaper peeling off because 'they lost his paperwork.' So we got to work on that, got him treated and today, Chris is married, he had a baby, he has a job, he's back on his feet. They lost his paperwork so what we did was we made sure the Veteran's Administration has an Ombudsmen Office, someone to stand up for veterans inside that government bureaucracy to make sure they get the care they need," said Hodes.

Hodes said he's running for Senate for a "simple reason – to stand up for the working people of New Hampshire, to stand up when government bureaucrats tie us up with red tape, to stand up when the health care companies want to take away your health care, to stand up when folks say 'Wall Street ought to win and we don't care about Main Street.' To stand up in every way every time someone wants to get in the way of what's right for the people of New Hampshire. That's why I'm running for United State's Senate.

"We're facing an election when the choice will be very clear. The health care companies are now spending millions and millions of dollars, with their allies in the Chambers of Commerce, and all those other folks who want to stop health care reform dead in its tracks, I believe we need health care reform with a strong public option," he said.

In other comments, Hodes said Democrats were providing middle class tax cuts, investing in 'green' jobs, and have saved the jobs of police officers, teachers and firefighters right here in New Hampshire. The folks on the other side of the debate want more tax cuts for the wealthy.

Hodes said he was "pro-choice," and he believed the decision about abortion should be between a woman and her doctor.

Democrats should start organizing and focusing on 2010 elections, or else the change they had worked for will go away. "Stand with me, stand with Carol, stand with the Democrats, so we can stand up for you in Washington," said Hodes.

A letter was read to the group from Governor John Lynch who was unable to attend. Chuck Henderson read a letter from Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the first Democrat and first woman elected to the Senate from New Hampshire in 30 years.

In written comments, Shaheen said delegates are making a difference by passing the economic recovery act and making critical investments for the future. Progress includes a children's health insurance bill and landmark credit card legislation to protect consumers. The Obama Administration has worked to "do what's right" by reversing a ban on stem cell research, condemning the use of torture, and by nominating the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. Shaheen also urged Democrats to stick together and pass the health care reform bill. "In coming week's we'll see the final version come to the Senate for a vote; we have the opportunity to fix a problem that has been around for generations. We are faced with the challenge of spiraling costs and a health care system that is unsustainable," Shaheen stated.

After a "whistle stop address" from President Cleveland, the crowd was treated to a musical skit by Ellen Hamilton Farnum, Peggy Johnson and Hans Stafford, who performed a satirical number poking fun at Republican's scare tactics to the music of "Phantom of the Opera."

In her keynote address, Shea-Porter said Democrats have worked hard to change the direction of the county, state and country, but are now being attacked by the "very ones who caused this mess."

Outlining some of the highlights of the health care reform bill, she said it would close the 'donut hole' for Medicare patients, provide a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs with no lifetime limits; prevent insurance companies from dropping coverage, provide consumer protections and create community health centers.

"This is an excellent plan. This is our moment. We can do this!" she said.

"This plan is not going to add to the deficit. This will save money," she said, referring to the Congressional Budget Office report. "If we do nothing, we'll go bankrupt over this issue. We're creating history right now," said Shaheen.

In other reception highlights, Michael Cauble received the 2009 Paul Wellstone Democratic Ideals Award. Other recognized guests included State Representatives Tom Bridgham, Susan Wiley, Ed Butler and Tom Buco, and State Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley, vice president of the National Democratic Committee. In his speech, Buckley outlined the progress the gains the Democratic Party has made not only in the nation, but also in the state.

"There are more Democrats than Republicans in New Hampshire," he said.

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