So You Want To Be A State Representative? Would-Be Legislators Get an Inside Look

Apr 7, 2016

Alexandria Knox, a prospective state representative, got to test out the speaker's gavel during an open house at the State House this week.
Credit Casey McDermott, NHPR

This week, Alexandria Knox got to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with one of her biggest heroes.

"Speaker Jasper," she said, "he is my inspiration."

That's Shawn Jasper, the Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. 

He might seem an unlikely role model for a 30-year-old from Manchester — but Knox is a political junkie who’s gunning for a seat of her own in Representatives’ Hall.

So, as you might expect, she was pretty starstruck when she had the chance to join Jasper at the Speakers’ podium and to test out was like to hold the speakers’ gavel herself.

"That was just such an honor," Knox said shortly after the visit to the legislative chamber. "And it’s so sacred in Representatives’ Hall, that place. It just gives me chills. I love the decorum, I love the history. That was my favorite part, definitely."

Knox and about 70 others came to the State House Thursday for just this kind of behind-the-scenes look at life in the Legislature. They were there for an open house hosted by the House Majority Office, meant to show would-be Republican candidates what to expect if they decided to run for state rep.

Think of it like a campus visit — the new kids, in this case, got matched up with current state reps who let them tag along to committee hearings and made sure they didn’t get lost in the State House tunnels.  They learned where the representatives eat lunch, how they pick seating assignments and what it’s like to live on a $100-a-year salary.

The group who turned out to test the waters spanned from retirees to those still raising young families. 

Some, like David Benford of Orford, were just there to learn more. Benford's a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, and until Thursday, he'd never been to the New Hampshire State House.

The would-be state representatives also got an up-close look inside the Senate chambers (along with a history lesson, courtesy of the State House Visitors Center).
Credit Casey McDermott, NHPR

“The one thing that struck me this morning is, it’s not a paid position – and that’s something that, people that are here are people that want to be here," Benford said. "It’s not something that, they’re not lining their pockets. And I think the American public is tired of that personally.”

Jean Ferreira, who lives in Gilford, has knocked on doors for plenty of candidates, including Ted Cruz — so, she says she knows what it takes to mount a grassroots campaign.

Now, she’s mulling a candidacy of her own, for state representative. But she’s still on the fence about whether that’s the best path for her activism.

“I vacillate between getting involved in the state politics and otherwise speaking out and being involved in rallies, et cetera," Ferreira said. "I go back and forth with that: Am I more helpful as one of 400 people in a body, or am I more helpful outside?”

Luckily for Ferreira and others on the fence, the would-be candidates still have a few months to make up their minds — the filing period for state primary elections begins June 1.