Feb 9, 2015 7:07 PM

Paul Steinhauser: An office filled with NH primary history


CONCORD - Monday marks one year until the scheduled date (as of now) for the 2016 New Hampshire primary.

And next year is the 100th anniversary of the nation's most famous primary. Wednesday NH1 News/WBIN-TV teams up with Bloomberg Politics and Saint Anselm College for a primary centennial celebration at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley has played a big role in the first-in-the-nation primary's history over the past four decades, and his office in downtown Concord is a treasure trove for any political junkie.

"I've made an effort over the years to try to collect every button of a Democrat running for president that somehow signifies New Hampshire, either the outline of the state of New Hampshire, or says New Hampshire, or something like that. It goes all the way from President Lyndon Johnson and Eugene McCarthy in 1968 all the way to, well now that we have Ready for Hillary, I guess it includes 2016," Buckley said, as he gave NH1 News a tour of his office.

His tour included a classic photo of a very young Ray Buckley.

"This was Feb. 24, 1976. This is in front of the Canterbury town hall, at the polls, and believe it or not I still have the hat, the sign," Buckley said. "I stood out in front of the polls the whole day asking people to support Jimmy Carter. It sort of exemplifies the Carter campaign, we were sort of a rag tag bunch. We really believed in Jimmy Carter, and we worked really hard and he was successful."

Asked if he still has the dated clothes he was wearing that day, Buckley said "I hope not" as he broke out in laughter.

Four years later then-President Carter faced a primary challenge from Sen. Ted Kennedy.

"Ted Kennedy really made news by coming to our state convention in 1978," Buckley said. "That sent the signal that something was up."

Fast-forward to late 1991.

"I was executive director of the state party back in 1991, had just been elected a Manchester alderman and I was doing a thank you party for my volunteers and they said, ‘Why not have it on your birthday and make it a birthday party,' so we get a call about two hours before saying, ‘Hey Gov. Clinton's in town, can you have him come by your birthday party,' and we said sure," recollects Buckley.

"The funniest part is Clinton did give remarks to the 7,500 people who were there, and he did say ‘Ray when I'm in the White House in two years I'll invite you to my birthday party in August of 1993,' and he did."

Two presidential cycles ago, it was another Clinton making the moves.

"Senator Clinton coming to our big dinner in 2007, that really kicked off her campaign for 2008," Buckley added.

Eight years later, it appears Hillary Clinton is an all-but-certain presidential candidate again.

And that means Buckley will soon have more photographs and memorabilia to put in his office.


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