Arm Wrestling and Organizing: Candidates for Governor Make Final Pitch

Nov 7, 2016

Credit Allegra Boverman, Jason Moon for NHPR

The candidates for New Hampshire governor spent the weekend crisscrossing the state, getting supporters fired up and making their final pitch to voters.

In the crowd at the New England Arm Wrestling Championship in Nashua on Saturday afternoon, dozens of  beefy guys sat  waiting for their turn at the tables. Also in the crowd – Executive Councilor, Republican candidate for governor, and arm-wrestling super-fan Chris Sununu.

"It’s a great event. They represent New Hampshire so well. So being here just means a lot because I just want to make sure they know we support them," said Sununu.

Sununu also knows he’s the one who needs support – if he’s to edge out fellow Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, the Democratic candidate for the Governor’s seat.

So Sununu made a few more traditional campaign stops this weekend too. He hit a Market Basket and some bars on the Seacoast on Sunday with Senator Kelly Ayotte. Sununu says at this point in the race, he’s mostly focused on being himself.

"You see all this negative stuff on television," said Sununu. "I put more stock in talking to people one on one, looking them in the eye, answering their questions. That’s what New Hampshire politics is all about. It’s not just about big money and hitting people with negative ads from above. It’s about down home, grassroots campaigning the old-fashioned way, and making sure people buy into you as a person."

That’s enough for world champion arm wrestler Cathy Merrill.

"I like how he portrays himself, I like his demeanor. And I think he’ll be a good governor for New Hampshire," said Merrill.

In a Concord parking lot Saturday, a couple hundred Democratic volunteers gathered in the fall chill. Using a pickup truck and hay bales as a stage, an organizer gives the rundown.

"We are first double checking that they are supporting Hillary Clinton," the organizer told the crowd. "We are asking if they are supporting Maggie Hassan, Colin Van Ostern for governor."

These canvassers had targeted lists of addresses of likely Democratic voters and they hoped to get those voters to say the words, “Yes I will vote on Tuesday, and I know how to get to the polls.”

Also on hand was Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. With Van Ostern, the Democratic candidate for governor, at her side, Warren spoke to reporters before giving a speech to the crowd.

"You got a great candidate here for governor. And I think people are fired up about that."

Van Ostern and other Democrats organized joint campaign events all weekend, pushing this relatively unknown gubernatorial candidate onto stages with big names like  Warren, Hillary Clinton – even folk-rock legend James Taylor. Van Ostern also attended at least half a dozen get-out-the-vote events like this one.

"I was at a huge canvas kickoff in Nashua this morning," Van Ostern said. "There’s tremendous enthusiasm. People are ready for this election to be here and they’re ready to win on Tuesday. I’m focused on talking to New Hampshire voters. We’re relying on people. And I’m gonna stand for the people of New Hampshire as they’re governor if they give me that opportunity." 

And that’s pretty much the last word before voters head to the polls and make their pick for governor.