Gay Senate candidate will run against alumna
By Tyler Bradford, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, July 27, 2012
In 2006, David Pierce, who is openly gay, was elected to represent District 9 in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, a victory for a demographic realm that is still largely underrepresented in state and national politics. This fall, Pierce will run to represent District 5 in the New Hampshire State Senate.
A newly formed district for the 2012 election year, District 5 ranges from Hanover in the north to Claremont in the south.
Although the district is overwhelmingly liberal, it is economically diverse, with the northern area considerably more affluent than the south.
Pierce is confident that he can appeal to members of all socioeconomic backgrounds within the district.
“I grew up in a small town in Texas, a town much more like Claremont than Hanover,” Pierce said. “Those are my roots. To say that I can’t connect to people from a place like Claremont is just not true.”
Pierce is the first in his family to graduate from college. He holds an MBA in international business, a law degree and a CPA certificate and has served as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He currently lives in Etna, N.H., with his partner of 20 years and their two daughters.
District 5’s strong liberal tendencies mean that the most contentious race will come in September, when Pierce runs against Sandra Harris ’81 in the Democratic primary.
Harris represented Claremont in the state legislature from 2000 to 2004 and served on the health, human services and elderly affairs committee, according to The Claremont Compass. In 2009, she served on the legislature’s finance committee and was later named a Henry Toll Fellow for her bipartisan leadership abilities. Harris, who is married to former physics professor Joe Harris, has held various teaching and guidance positions in the Upper Valley and was president of the Lebanon Business and Professional Woman’s Association.
Although Pierce and Harris agree on many policies, they differ on the death penalty, which Pierce strongly opposes.
George Helding ’14 — who is acting as Pierce’s campaign manager in the months leading up to the September primary — emphasized the importance of connecting with a large array of citizens in the district.
“Bringing the district together is a main goal,” Helding said.
While Helding spends most of his time fundraising for Pierce’s campaign, he also focuses on establishing direct contact with voters.
Voting rights have been a central concern of Pierce’s throughout his tenure in the New Hampshire House. Immediately following his election to the New Hampshire House in 2006, Pierce joined the Election Law Committee — a choice he made because of his desire to ensure college students’ right to vote in the state.
“Republicans have targeted college students to try and keep them from voting in New Hampshire,” Pierce said. “They are trying to take college students’ voting rights away.”
The first two bills passed by the New Hampshire House in 2007 after Pierce joined the Election Law Committee dealt directly with college voting rights and include a provision stating that college students can vote in the town in which they reside.
“College students spend more time in the town where they go to school than at home,” Pierce said. “We want to recognize that student’s constitutional right to vote where they live.”
In addition to student voting rights, Pierce has spent the majority of his political career fighting for marriage equality. One of the main proponents of New Hampshire’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2010, Pierce has become a target of anti-gay groups such as the National Organization for Marriage.
Pierce cited rumors that the NOM may provide funding to Pierce’s Republican opponent for the November election, but Pierce said he was not concerned about the possibility.
“I’m not sure if the NOM is funding my Republican opponent, but if they do, their money will have much less of an impact in this district than they might hope for,” Pierce said.
In addition to these two central issues, Pierce said he also prioritizes the economy. He said that the state legislature’s Republican majority is responsible for the economic depression within the state and said that the government has a key role in revitalizing the economy.
Health care and education are equally important issues, and they are interlinked with the economy, Pierce said.
“You can’t emphasize one without affecting the other,” Pierce said. “If you cut university education funding, you decrease your supply of an educated workforce, and then you can’t invite businesses into New Hampshire.”
Pierce also pointed to cuts in Medicare that deprived Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center — the largest employer in District 5 — of $100 million worth of business.
Pierce recently advised the Dartmouth College Democrats, a student organization run by Mason Cole ’13. Pierce has long been a fierce advocate of students’ rights, according to Cole.
“He is our man on the ground for what’s going on in the New Hampshire legislature, letting us know what we should be looking for,” Cole said.
The Democratic primaries for New Hampshire State Senate will be held on Sept. 11.