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November 04. 2012 8:27PM

North Country flooded with candidates on eve of elections

Campaign signs and candidates seem to be everywhere in the North Country. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX PHOTO)

CONWAY - It's been a great season for annual meetings of the region's organizations, as contested races up and down the election ballots have brought out the politicians. Those politicians have not been getting a free lunch, but they have had the opportunity to schmooze with potential voters on both sides of - and in - the aisle.

Janice Crawford, executive director of the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday that the organization's annual meeting and dinner Oct. 30 attracted 265 guests, with more than a few of those diners candidates for Carroll County offices.

The candidates also provided an advertising boast for the chamber's annual report, with 10 buying space, as well as a couple of group ads. The Mitt Romney and Carol Shea-Porter campaigns purchased full-page ads.

Last Tuesday morning, supporters on both sides were out in force at the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council-sponsored gubernatorial debate. Republican Ovide Lamontagne and Democrat Maggie Hassan answered questions for nearly two hours in front of a packed house at the North Conway Grand Hotel.

Hassan stuck around the North Country long enough to make an appearance that evening at the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting. The week before, Lamontagne attended the North Country Council annual meeting in Whitefield.

At the chamber dinner, Crawford was careful to introduce all the candidates in attendance, most of whom had bought space in the report. From candidates for county sheriff, to county commissioner, state representatives, executive council and state senate, they were all there vying for support at the polls.

The political season hasn't been a huge boost in business for Minuteman Press in North Conway, but the print shop hasn't been left out. Brenda Court of Minuteman said the business has done "mostly the smaller stuff," such as large postcards and the single-rate, card-sized handouts for candidates in the sheriff's race and House races. They also, she said, did a small printing of a lawn sign that reads, "Save the Planet Vote Democrat." They didn't, she added, do the signs that say, "Save America Vote Republican."

Nor do they produce the lawn signs for candidates for statewide offices. For those signs, political activists can go to the parties' campaign offices.

Even the annual Mud Bowl in North Conway in September couldn't escape politics. Both local political parties entered floats in the parade.

The big question is whether the high visibility of the candidates all across northern New Hampshire will translate into a high voter turnout. Town clerks in Woodstock and Albany report that they've seen an increase in absentee ballot requests, though Debra Patrick, Berlin city clerk, said it's about the same as 2008, which was also a presidential election year.

On Thursday, a Conway resident explained his purchase of a 12-pack of Heineken as he was leaving Hannaford. He was, he joked, going to hunker down until the election is over.

Remarking that candidates are seemingly everywhere, another longtime resident agreed with him, adding that you can readily find them at the grocery stores and the dump.

Win or lose, those candidates and their supporters should be back at the dump next week, getting rid of all of their campaign signs.


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