‘Bird-dogging’ the New Hampshire Senate race

Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaking with Bread for the World members at a popular eatery in Claremont, N.H.

By Alex Wheelwright

The 2016 election is almost here, and New Hampshire is home to an extremely tight Senate race between incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) and the state’s current governor, Maggie Hassan (D).

Like other Bread for the World grassroots across the country, New Hampshire leaders are pressing to find out where their candidates stand on addressing the twin issues of hunger and poverty – and we are doing it with dogged determination.

Leaders from Durham to Lebanon to Nashua have called and emailed campaign offices requesting a meeting with both Ayotte and Hassan. Neither campaign has gotten back to us. We believe it is vital that voters know where their candidates stand on hunger, and what their plan is to address it, so that we can hold them accountable once they are in office. With nearly 2,500 New Hampshire constituents voting to end hunger, we know we have significant backing.

Rather than shrug our shoulders, we decided to capitalize on an Ayotte campaign stop in Claremont we had been alerted to. At a popular downtown eatery, three leaders quietly discussed our plan while we nursed our orders and waited for the senator to show up. One member of our group works a second job at a grocery store and wanted to ask about minimum wage. Around 1:30 p.m. Ayotte arrived with her team of photographers and campaign staffers.

Ayotte came over to our table and after a round of handshakes, we made the most of the few moments we had with her. We were able to ask her what she would do if elected to end hunger, alleviate poverty, and increase opportunity in the U.S. and worldwide. She answered our questions as her team took photos of the meeting. If she is elected again to the Senate on Nov. 8, we will attempt to follow up with her with another face-to-face meeting.

Although we would have preferred a longer meeting to touch on more of the policies we care about, using the bird-dogging tactic got us a step closer to our goal of making hunger an issue in the New Hampshire race. To “bird dog” means to seek out or pursue with dogged determination. With just weeks to go before Election Day, candidates for U.S. Congress are reaching out directly to voters in their home states and districts. These public appearances provide an opportunity to talk about hunger and poverty for the determined advocate.

One in eleven people in New Hampshire lives below the poverty line. Too many people in our state need to work more than one job to make ends meet. The best way to end hunger is to ensure that people can get good, family-sustaining jobs. The next senator from New Hampshire will likely have the opportunity to vote on wage policy in the next Congress.

We continue to push for sit-down meetings with both Ayotte and Hassan to flesh out their hunger and poverty plans and encourage them to publicize these plans on their campaign websites. We, along with the 2,500 New Hampshire constituents who have said ending hunger is a priority for them, think that voters have a right to know where their candidates stand. If both camps continue to duck our meeting requests, they can count on being confronted with the hunger question at town halls, debates, and public appearances.

Learn more about Bread’s I Vote to End Hunger campaign and then get involved to ensure that our next president and Congress make ending hunger a priority.

Alex Wheelwright is a regional organizer at Bread for the World

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