Hollis delegate readies for Democrat National Convention

HOLLIS – While the Republican primaries gain most of the limelight, unbeknownst to most, New Hampshire Democrats have been working tirelessly to prepare for their convention, too.

On Jan. 14, the New Hampshire Democratic Caucus elected 18 delegates to represent New Hampshire at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September. Among those chosen was Claire Helfman, a prominent Hollis Democrat, and long-time grassroots activist and campaigner.

Though the seed to seek nomination found fertile ground months ago, Helfman’s drive to become a delegate blossomed after her White House visit in December.

“I am excited about being a delegate after receiving the invitation and going,” she said.

Along with 200 other people, she was recognized by President Obama for her commitment to his campaign in 2008. The recognition was not about donations but true personal investment. Helfman was honored for giving generously of her time and reaching out to people individually on behalf of the Democratic Party.

When she arrived home from the White House, she felt more compelled than ever to help.

“How responsible are you for your neighbor?” she asked, describing what she sees as the main difference between the main streams of the two dominant parties in this current political climate.

She believes the country faces a tough situation where we run the risk of becoming a nation of haves and have-nots.

“The whole system has to be revamped,” she said, as she talked about her commitment to making positive change for the people of New Hampshire and across America. The looming question for her was, “How?”

With no interest in holding office herself, Helfman focused her energies on the thoughtful evolution of policies and community engagement; working within the community to help build momentum and ownership of the issues at hand.

For Helfman, that work starts in earnest at the convention where much more than the nomination of the candidate occurs.

“Being a delegate is a lot of work because there is a lot of meeting and issues that we discuss and we vote on it too,” she said, explaining how the three-day event unfolds with the creation of a platform, the nomination of the candidate and his agreement to endorse and represent the platform before him.

Taking this very seriously, Helfman sought the help of her friends and neighbors within the Democratic Party to win a place in the delegation. On the morning of Jan. 14, she traveled north with 35 supporters hoping to win one of the four seats in the 2nd District reserved for women.

Aligning herself with Alejandro Urrutia, a Nashua Democrat seeking one of the district’s seats allotted for men, they encouraged their contingents to support each other during voting and then prepared for their campaign speeches.

Each candidate received two minutes; not much speaking time to convince the voters of their commitment and worthiness.

Though well supported, Helfman could not be sure that she would earn a seat.

“There were wonderful people who had some wonderful things,” she said, as she spoke about the competition.

But Helfman had help that she did not know about.

Friend and New Hampshire Sen. Peggy Gilmore, also from Hollis, spent her allotted time encouraging voters to support Helfman, instead of seeking the vote for herself.

In the end the combined efforts worked, with Helfman winning a seat in the 2012 Delegation.

The caucus and election behind her, she has set her sights on the responsibilities of choosing the remaining 18 delegates of the 36 allotted to New Hampshire when the newly elected delegates meet again in April.

And then the real work begins – preparing for the convention.

“I’m interested in seeing the platform ahead of time,” she said, with a glimmer of excitement in her eye.