With the eyes of the populace on the presidential race, it is easy to forget that there are many local elections that will reshape state legislatures. All across the nation, candidates are campaigning to help steer this nation to excellence on a state-by-state basis. However, there is one big little election going on in Massachusetts’ 8th District of Salem that the nation has been exceedingly blind to.
Running for the New Hampshire House of Representatives is Joe Sweeney, an 18-year-old right out of high school. After getting wind of his fledgling political career, I exchanged emails with the would-be representative so that he could explain his views, and explain why he should be elected, in this interview:
I'm 18 years old. You're 18 years old. Level with me. When did you get into politics and what possessed you to make this run for the New Hampshire House of Representatives?
“I have been interested in politics for many years now. It all stems from conversations I have had with my grandfather about the direction the country is taking and how we are impacted by it. I am running for State Representative because I feel that I can be a benefit to the people of New Hampshire and I can be a politician and a leader the people can trust.”
How did your parents react when you announced your run?
“My parents were extremely supportive of my run. They understood it is what I wanted to do and they were only worried with people attacking me based on my age and experience. Luckily, the campaign has not been nasty at all and everyone has been really positive.”
On your Facebook fan page, you write that you want to "Make it easier for people and businesses to move into NH." What restrictions are in place that makes it difficult for businesses to come into New Hampshire and, if elected, how would you help remedy those situations?
“Currently, the State of New Hampshire is stuck in the 20th century when it comes to technology. The main thing that is getting in the way of businesses moving to New Hampshire is our failure to be more accessible online. Also, there are limitations on cell phone technology, with many areas in New Hampshire suffering from lost service, prohibit our people from doing business here.”
What measures would you take to help stimulate New Hampshire's economy?
“I believe strongly that infrastructure improvements and technological improvements must take place in order to build a strong foundation for a very prosperous New Hampshire. Long term growth is going to be determined by the access to roads and the travel time it takes to get from one point to another in New Hampshire. If we can achieve a more interconnected New Hampshire, we will have a stronger economy.”
Many House Republicans have, in the past, signed pledges agreeing to not raise taxes. If a constituent brought it to you, would you sign such a pledge?
“I have actually been given this pledge and I did not sign it. I think we can have a responsible debate on taxation. While I am not in favor of raising taxes on anyone, locking myself into a pledge does not seem to be the common sense thing to do.”
You have said that you would be willing to work across the aisle with a member of any party. In light of President Obama's failed bipartisanship efforts, do you think large-scale bipartisanship is possible?
“I think it is. In New Hampshire, our political differences are not that vivid when compared to other States. Currently, people see failure on big items and they worry that bipartisanship is dead. It is not dead, we simply need to open our eyes to the possibilities that working together brings us.”
You have a quote from Gandhi on your fan page that goes, "Be the change you wish to see in this World [sic]." Generally, when I hear people talk about politicians they talk about how they lie, cheat, and steal. Just today I heard someone boil politics down to one word: "corrupt." Do you believe that way of thinking can be changed?
“I am very optimistic, and I know that I can be a Representative Salem will be proud of. Integrity has always mattered to me and I promise the people I will serve with integrity.”
What factors brought you to be a moderate Republican?
“The part of me that makes me moderate is most likely my social stances. I am against efforts to repeal Gay Marriage as I feel that people’s rights must be defended. I am also more centrist on my view on Government investment being the soil that businesses grow out of, and that investments and infrastructure are ways the state prepares the soil. I also do not believe that the progressive movement of the early 20th century was as bad as others believe and I feel that it did help.”
Running a campaign must be difficult, have you had anyone's help?
“I have had help from my parents, my girlfriend, my family, and a strong network of friends. They all understand that this is something I want and they are very willing to help my campaign out.”
Explain to me the importance of education in America and how you plan to reform it as a part of the House.
“Education is something that is very dear to me and I feel that a great education produces great citizens. I feel we need to set realistic goals in New Hampshire, get rid of needless bureaucracy in the State Education system, and empower teachers to speak up on what will better help them teach.”
The About section of your page says that you "will not represent corporations or lobby groups." Are you willing to take a position on the Supreme Court's Citizen's United ruling?
“I am against it. It truly disgusts me how much money can be spent on campaigning, and it must stop. We need to get back to citizen centered campaigning, not business centered.”
Both of us being young, I can only imagine how older people might view your campaign. So, explain to them and your district what qualifications you have to run for your state legislature.
“I am running for State Representative because I feel I possess the energy and spirit to change the way Concord operates. I believe we have to put everything on the table when it comes to reforming government, including term limits for the Governor and members of the General Court.”
My final question: why should people vote for you over other candidates?
“The only people I respond to are the people. I am not a member of the political class and I am willing to take on and work with both parties. I will perform my job to the best of my ability and help out the people of my town. Thank you very much for this opportunity.”
If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.