The First District Democratic Congressional candidates have a dilemma. The New Hampshire Democratic Party (NHDP) offers them access to its voter database, Votebuilder by NGP VAN, which has a reputation for accurate, up-to-date data. But it comes at a price many can’t afford: $37,500, payable in monthly installments.
Candidates call the fee “a barrier to entry,” “outrageous,” and “pay for play”
When NHDP Chairman Ray Buckley and Executive Director Amy Kennedy explained the policy at the candidates meeting last winter, candidate Terence O’Rourke of Alton and City Attorney for Rochester, said, “My jaw dropped in disbelief. That’s a yearly salary for most people! It’s a barrier to entry. Without the list, you can’t build a campaign in this modern age. Email is the whole ballgame.”
Mark MacKenzie, a candidate, state representative for Manchester Ward 10, and former AFL-CIO President, agreed with O’Rourke: “Can people like me – progressive candidates – compete? It locks out people who want to participate in the system. I represent poor and middle-class people, and I can’t call the wealthy and get thousands of dollars.”
Lincoln Soldati, a candidate from Portsmouth who served nine terms as Strafford County Attorney, called the NHDP demand, “outrageous.”
Levi Sanders, a candidate from Claremont, political consultant, and the son of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, said: “This is making it far more difficult for people to engage in participatory democracy. We need to have the strongest candidate in the general election to defeat the Republicans.”
Mindi Messmer, a candidate from Rye, said, “Charging that much money for a voter file is pay for play. If you can’t cough up the cash, it won’t be a level playing field. The NHDP wants to limit the voters’ choice in candidates, and they are keeping out grassroots candidates.”
These candidates all said they had developed workarounds, but agreed that none were equal to Votebuilder. Messmer purchased voter lists from the Secretary of State, adding phone numbers and email from a data service. All five candidates are relying on local donations to fund their campaigns.
Their June 30 Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports make it clear why most said the price of the NHDP database puts it out of reach:
- MacKenzie raised $277,110 to date and has $107,873 cash on hand.
- Soldati raised $157,655 to date and has $42,811 cash on hand.
- Messmer raised $87,114 to date and has $19,117 cash on hand.
- Naomi Andrews of Epping, former Chief of Staff for Rep. Carol Shea Porter, raised $64,485 to date and has $48,133 cash on hand.
- Sanders raised $27,452 to date and has $19,630 cash on hand.
- O’Rourke raised $13,623 to date and has $5,856 cash on hand.
NHDP chairman Ray Buckley and executive director Amy Kennedy did not reply to requests for comment by the InkLink, despite multiple attempts to reach them. The NHDP has a full staff and funds offices and races across the state.
MacEachern, who bought the list, calls it “a necessity”
Deaglan McEachern, a businessman, candidate from Portsmouth, and son of Paul McEachern, a state representative who ran for governor, purchased the list. He said, “It’s tough to come up with that kind of money but I view it as a necessity. Would I like to pay less? Of course. But New Hampshire has the best list of anywhere in the country. I know the NHDP does a lot of work maintaining it. I think Ray [Buckley] has NH’s best interests at heart.”
His June 30 FEC report shows that he raised $215,084 and has $67,230 cash on hand.
Sullivan, Pappas, with most cash on hand, did not reply
Despite repeated attempts to contact them, the InkLink did not receive statements from the following candidates:
- Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth, who is a former Department of Veteran Affairs Assistant Secretary. Her FEC report shows that she has raised $1,524,114, with $1,091,458 cash on hand.
- Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester. He has raised $665,975 to date, and has $440,498 cash on hand.
The New Hampshire GOP provides lists free, as do some other state Democratic parties
“The NHGOP does not charge candidates for access to our voter data or for the use of our election technology, including a phone banking app and a door-to-door app,” according to Joe Sweeney, communications director.
The Republican candidates filed these reports:
- Andy Sanborn raised $868,344, with $714,559 cash on hand.
- Eddie Edwards raised $547,0059 with $215,163 cash on hand.
- Bruce Crochetiere raised $327,025 with $230,627 cash on hand
In a May article in The Progressive, Michael Sainato and Walker Bragman wrote, “Many State Democratic parties do not charge candidates to access their voter data or only charge nominal fees for access, according to several candidates and state party leaders we spoke with. Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska and New Jersey do not charge candidates any fee to access the State Democratic Party’s voter data.”
According to Sainato and Bragman, Wyatt Ronan, formerly Communications Director of the NHDP, wrote in an mail, “Would we like to give it away? Absolutely, but between 20 years of compiled data, the cost of upkeep and updating it, the add-on services we provide, and extra security, we can’t afford to.” Ronan is now Communications Director for Chris Pappas.
Editor’s Note: The headline of this story has been corrected from an earlier version, which included a typographical error. We strive for accuracy and appreciate hearing from you when something slips past our human eyes.
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