Paul Steinhauser: 27 NH Dem. lawmakers urge contested 2016 primary
CONCORD - State Sen. David Watters says "I think Sen. (Elizabeth) Warren could bring to this race a real focus on middle class families, on fairness, on economic equality for all. And we need to have that debate."
Watters was the most senior Democrat among a list of 27 current and former state lawmakers to sign an open letter urging the U.S. senator from Massachusetts to run for the party's presidential nomination in 2016.
The letter was released early Wednesday morning by two leading national progressive groups, Democracy for America and MoveOn.org, which last autumn teamed up to spearhead a "Run Warren Run" campaign.
NH1 News tweeted out word of the letter moments after it was released, and later Wednesday morning spoke with Watters at the state capitol.
"I think you see that Sen. Clinton is responding very positively to what Sen. Warren has said," Watters told NH1, regarding Warren's impact so far in the 2016 race for the White House.
The former secretary of state, senator from New York and first lady is widely expected to formally launch a second White House bid as early as next month, and is considered to be the overwhelming frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. But there are many progressives who are not enamored with Clinton due to her ties to Wall Street and what they consider her moderate positions.
And there are some voices in the party that lament a lack of strong challenger to Clinton in the nomination hunt. Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont are all mulling White House runs, but none are considered a serious threat to Clinton. Warren, so far, has fended off moves by progressives to urge her to run, saying she is not contemplating a 2016 campaign.
Watters says the letter is less about Clinton and more about a healthy and vigorous primary competition.
"I don't this this is a criticism per say, as to say that we are a stronger democracy and we'll have a better primary if we have more than one voice," Watters said.
The letter's release comes as Clinton is dealing with two controversies, over her exclusive use of a private email account while she served as secretary of state during President Barack Obama's first term, and over the Clinton Foundation's resumption of accepting of donations from foreign countries after she stepped down as secretary of state in 2013.
But Watters told NH1 the letter was not in response to the current controversies.
"The letter, I know, had been in the works for a while. And the sap is running. It's March. This is a year out from the primary. This is when the activity on the local level really starts to intensify. And we need candidates here. We really do need the Democratic voices here now and I think this is a way of encouraging that. So I don't think it's a response necessarily to Clinton. I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot from her very soon and she's going to be a powerful and strong candidate and so let the contest begin," he said.
The "Run Warren Run" campaign says it has four staffers currently on the ground in the first-in-the-nation primary state, as well as staff in Iowa, which holds the first caucus in the race for the White House.
"These New Hampshire citizen legislators aren't just urging Senator Warren to enter the 2016 race as some of the most important activists in the Granite State's Democratic Party, they're speaking out as representatives of communities all across our state that all care deeply about the future of our country. Every day the grassroots Run Warren Run campaign is growing in New Hampshire and today's calls from these Granite State legislators is a critical boost to that continued momentum," said "Run Warren Run" NH state director Kurt Ehrenberg.
Democracy for America and MoveOn have jointly pledged $1.25 million to the "Run Warren Run" campaign.