Pay dues before Statehouse run

One of the things that makes New Hampshire unusual is our method of dealing with elections in that we live up to the late Tip O’Neill’s axiom that "all politics is local."

We are local in the extreme, given the number of state legislators we send to Con­cord. We all know at least one of them, and in many cases, we’ve known them for many years because they are our neighbors and friends and, by the way, they’ve been in of­fice in some cases for, seemingly, forever.

We like to elect people we know. And we like to re-elect them. We sometimes even elect them when we don’t really know them, but we recognize their names. We all, for instance, either know or know of a Wheeler or a Bragdon, and at least one person with that name either is in office, has been in office or will be in office.

It’s the New Hampshire way.

Which is why it surprises us when someone who has not held even the most local of public positions decides to skip the opening act and jump right into the fray for something like the state Legisla­ture. It hardly ever works, and might even be counterproductive. Smith? Isn’t he the guy who ran against (insert well-known name) two years ago and got schmushed?

Yes, because (insert well-known name) has a well-known name, and even if some voters aren’t quite sure of his or her politics, or might even oppose a position taken by him or her, well, we know that person, we like that person on a personal level and they haven’t burned down the Statehouse or wrecked the state economy, so … and who’s this guy Smith, anyway?

Right: Who is this guy, or woman, Smith? Too often, it’s just a name on the ballot, a name we don’t recognize, a person we don’t know, or don’t realize we know, and a person we can’t identify as someone who has contributed to our community.

We are never going to have term limits in New Hampshire, so the only way to get rookies into legislative positions is to elect them, and the reason we might elect them is because we know something about them.

How do we learn about them? By seeing them in action:

Perhaps we read about them taking a position as a member of a planning board.

Perhaps we see them inspecting land as a member of a conservation commission.

Perhaps we see them on cable access television talking about issues, from the audience, to members of a school board.

Perhaps we see them doing anything we consider a contribution to our region.

That’s the key: Before taking the leap onto a ballot as a candidate for a state of­fice, take a smaller leap. Volunteer for lo­cal committees, get your name out there, get known, be active.

Because in New Hampshire, we like to elect people we think we know. And if we don’t think we know you, it doesn’t matter if you live two houses down.