Last night, Shawn O'Connor spoke to about a score of people at the monthly Hampton Dems meeting. He is running for the New Hampshire first Congressional district seat now held by Frank Guinta and being sought, for the umpteenth time by Carol Shea Porter, the Democrat who's played musical chairs with Guinta for several election cycles.
O'Connor spoke at the Democratic convention in Manchester and about all I could recall about him was he said he would not accept as a salary in Congress anything more than the minimum wage in New Hampshire, about $15,000 a year and he was gay, which seems to be something of a merit badge in New Hampshire Democratic circles lately.
Tonight, he started with the Ghandi-esque thing about not wanting to live any better than the least among us, the minimum wage thing, which had me squirming. I don't resent a Congressman making $170K annually. We have an unpaid legislature in New Hampshire and that has resulted in a selection bias in favor of kooks like Fred Rice, who have nothing better to do and an independent income. Much of our governmental dysfunction may derive from the amateur hour we have going in Concord.
So the I'm not taking money to do this-job-which-should-be-a-calling thing did not resonate with me and my friends all said, "How bogus." It comes off as an insincere gimmick. Most people here understand Congress can be a fun job, for the right insane individual.
However...when he started answering pointed questions about how he would keep the Portsmouth shipyard open, how he would react to the prospect of a propane terminal in Portsmouth, how he would respond to the periodic gun events which seem to claim students from elementary school to college on a regular basis, how he would respond to being called a tax and spend Democrat, he transformed from callow clueless youth to a very polished, thoughtful, persuasive and effective man.
Turns out, he worked on Capitol Hill for 4 years; he went to Georgetown undergrad, Harvard Law (where his favorite professor was Elizabeth Warren!) Harvard Business School and he started a firm with 40 employees, so he's met a payroll.
Forty five minutes later, he had me on his team.
Now, if I can just get him to listen to me about this Gandhi thing. It's a distraction.
He could also use some prepping on how to keep his answers short and how to arm himself with arrows of zingers to answer The Donald and any other Republican when they sling their own arrows...this guy could be a keeper.
He is smart, does not back down from a fight, and he could serve a long time.