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Concord Monitor photo by Erin Stubblefield

Democratic presidential candidates introduce themselves during the forum held at Saint Anselm campus on Monday, December 19. The forum was for lesser-known candidates for the New Hampshire Presidential Primary.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Less is more for hopefuls

GOFFSTOWN – The dais at Saint Anselm College on Monday night was not filled with your typical political debaters. By the end, it was covered in “fairy dust” as one tried to turn another candidate gay.

There was a physicist, a real estate developer, and a man whose platform involved the government giving a pony to every citizen and who wore a giant boot on his head throughout the debate.

Some espoused a single issue, be it banning guns or developing thorium as an oil alternative; others delivered wide-ranging, bullet point plans on everything from illegal immigration to tax policy to foreign conflicts.

Seventeen candidates for president of the United States visited the New Hampshire Institute of Politics to participate in the institute’s Lesser Known Candidates Debate and took part in two lightning-quick debates on a wide range of issues.

The debate, another First in the Nation tradition, welcomed anyone who has filed and paid the fee to be on the New Hampshire ballot and hadn’t taken part in any other debates. It’s a chance to recognize the openness of the political process and to give those dark-horse candidates one soapbox to reach a greater audience.

“I think it’s a good thing,” said Jim Casey, a Massachusetts resident in town supporting Vermin Supreme (the man with the boot for a hat.) “I think it’s a great thing. I think there should be more of it. I think people are going to start listening more.”

“I believe it gives them a platform. It’s part of democracy,” said Tim Powers, a Raymond resident and Saint Anselm alum.

A senior fellow at the New Hampshire Institute for Politics, Patrick Griffin, moderated the debate. He gave each of the 10 Republican and seven Democrats two minutes to give an opening statement and then 45 seconds to answer a series of questions from two panelists.

Without a doubt, Supreme, a Massachusetts Democrat, made the biggest impression, first by posing for dozens of pictures in his boot hat and then espousing the virtues of his mandatory tooth brushing policy.

At the end of the debate, he stood and sprinkled handfuls of glitter on fellow Democrat Randall Terry and shouting, “He’s turning gay. He’s turning gay.”

A large part of Terry’s platform is that America has become too “debauched” and cannot return to its former glory if we allow abortions and gay marriage. He took the fairy dust dousing with aplomb and a smile.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner said the debates of the lesser-known candidates is an important and unique tradition, similar to New Hampshire’s status as the first presidential primary state.

“The primary has always provided the little guy with a chance,” he said. “This gives those candidates who are not well-known a chance to have a forum. It’s one of a kind. There’s nothing else like this in the country. It’s very unique. The little guy has a chance.”

Gardner said the 44 Republican and Democratic candidates on the primary ballot this year is the second most in history, behind the 61 names on the ballot in 1992. Most years there are between 30 and 40, not counting independent candidates.

Griffin said the institute makes it a point to invite all candidates on the ballot, regardless of their varying degrees of seriousness.

“It’s a little dangerous because you’re working without a net,” he said. “Part of the New Hampshire primary is allowing legitimate candidates to have a forum. We think it’s nice to take a little bit of time to let these folks express their ideas.”

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or Also follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).