A new generation of LGBTQ politicians visit Hilltop’s NHIOP

David Micali, Crier Staff

Students, faculty, and New Hampshire residents braved 7℉ temperatures to hear five local politicians talk about their experiences running for office as a member of the LGBTQ community.  

The event, “A New Generation of New Hampshire Politicians,” took place on Jan. 31 in the NHIOP’s West Wing and was co-sponsored by Gender Studies, the NHIOP, The True Equality and Dignity Alliance Club (TEDA), Lucubrations, and the Philosophy Department. The event began with Professor David Banach of the Philosophy Department introducing Matthew Solomon, class of 2020. The Crier briefly spoke with Solomon, President of TEDA, before the event.

According to Solomon, this event was important because there are a “lot of firsts and diversity in local politics that don’t get a lot of attention.”

This event highlighted that fact because every speaker was a member of the LGTBQ community. Speaking at the event was Goffstown Selectwoman Kelly Boyer, Somersworth State Representative Gerri Cannon, Exeter Selectwoman Molly Cowan, Rochester Councilor Jeremy Hutchinson, and Manchester State Representative Joshua Query.

After being introduced by Solomon, Boyer, who moderated the panel, told the audience that it was “important we have these conversations.”

According to her, she was the first LGTBQ member to be elected in Goffstown, the youngest person elected in Goffstown and the first woman in ten years to be elected to Goffstown’s Select Board (when she ran it was known as the Board of Selectman, but the name was recently changed).

To her left sat Cannon, Somersworth’s State Representative and a member of the Somersworth School Board. Cannon moved to New Hampshire from Massachusetts 30 years ago with her family. When she was 46 years old, she came out as being transgender. According to her, when that happened, her “worst dreams came true.” She was kicked out of her home and, because there were no laws protecting transgender people at the time, she lost her job. She entered politics working on both a transgender bill and a same sex marriage bill in 2009. Only the same sex marriage bill passed. After driving and living out of a truck for five years, she asked the Somersworth mayor what she should do, to which the mayor suggested that she run for the Somersworth School Board. According to her, she won “fairly easily” by six votes, which was “quite substantial.” In 2018, she ran and won the position of State Representative for Somersworth. According to her, “the response back from the people was wonderful.”

Sitting to her left was Exeter Selectwoman Molly Cowan. Cowan grew up in New Hampshire and became fascinated with politics when she was nine and her father took her to see then-candidate Bill Clinton during the 1992 Presidential Primary. After attending school in New York, she moved back to New Hampshire and worked on State Senate candidate Maggie Hassan’s campaign (Hassan would go on to be the governor from 2013 to 2017 and is currently a senator in Congress). When she came out, she was already married to a man and had two children, yet the people in her life were “so wonderful” and supportive.

Speaking next was Rochester Councilor Jeremy Hutchinson. Hutchinson was the first gay man elected in Rochester and according to him, the youngest. He ran because he wanted to see change in his community. Hutchinson ran on the issue of sidewalks in Rochester (according to him there are not enough) and his campaign was never about his sexuality, he just “happened to be gay.”

The final speaker was Manchester State Representative Joshua Query. Query grew up in Indiana where he knew current Vice President Mike Pence for a long time. According to Query, before Pence was his governor, he was his state representative and before that he broadcasted his radio show out of Query’s hometown. According to an article published in The New Yorker under the title “The Danger of President Pence,” in the early 1990s, Pence joined the board of the Indiana Family Institute, a group that “campaigned against equal rights for homosexuals.” Query went to art school and knocked on doors for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Presidential Election. He served as the vice chair of the LGTBQ caucus in New Hampshire and ran for State Representative for Manchester in 2018. According to him, he ran against the “most conservative woman” to which Boyer was quick to add “ever.”

After the talks, the panel shifted to questions from the audience. When asked how they were covered in the media, Hutchinson talked about how he frequently appeared in Foster’s Daily Democrat, a newspaper out of Dover, NH, not for being a gay man, but for his work combating homelessness. Cannon said that because she was the first transgender person elected to a city school board in the state, she became national news. She said that when President Trump announced his transgender military ban, news organizations, such as WMUR (an ABC affiliate broadcasting out of Manchester), contacted her for her opinion. When asked how a senator or state representative could possibility learn about all the bills being put forward (890 according to Cannon) in order to make an informed decision, Cannon and Query replied that one must rely on the committee report when it is released. According to them, the committee report states the pros and cons of a bill and one must hope that the information is accurate. With the talks concluded, the panelists were presented with a small token of appreciation by students.