A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
June 3, 2007
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Gov. Bill Richardson spent Saturday morning with Democratic activists at a political convention, but he spent part of the afternoon personally seeking Hispanic voters in an urban neighborhood.
Richardson and his entourage — followed by a gaggle of reporters and photographers — stopped in at several local Latino-owned businesses on Union Street, speaking to supporters, potential supporters and curious neighborhood kids in English and Spanish.
“I’m running for president as an American who is Hispanic,” he told a crowd jammed into the Don Quijote restaurant. “I want to be president of the whole country.”
But one man who talked to the crowd a few minutes later said Hispanos should vote for Richardson because “he’ll take care of us.”
Hispanics are a small but growing minority in the Granite State, making up an estimated 14 percent of the population. According to some reports, the Hispanic population has grown 80 percent in the past decade.
The New Hampshire primary, scheduled for late January 2008, is the first primary in the presidential campaign.
On his walk down Union Street, Richardson was accompanied by several local politicians and political activists, including state Rep. Lily Mesa and Manchester Alderman Mike Lopez.
Although he initially said he wanted to eat some tacos at Don Quijote and shouted out an order to owner Sandra Sepulveda, his handlers hustled him out of the cafe for his short trip down the street.
He stopped at the home of a family named Zapata, knocking on the door ostensibly to ask if he could put a “Richardson for President” sign in the front yard. Apparently the family already had agreed to let him to do this. However, a next-door neighbor came out and asked the Richardson team if she could have a sign as well. The governor happily obliged.
Even before Richardson’s appearance, several of his signs dotted the street.
Richardson stopped into the Tropical Food Market, where he joked with a clerk. He also made the rounds at the Latin Style Men’s Hair Salon, talking to customers as well as the barbers.
“How much you charge for a haircut?” he asked owner Tomas Barrera, who replied, $15.
“How much for bad hair like mine?” Richardson asked. “$50?”
Barrera said he’d cut it for free if Richardson promised to have his first haircut “after you’re elected president” at Latin Style.
Richardson promised that if elected, he’d do that.
Earlier in the day, Richardson was one of several presidential candidates to speak at the New Hampshire state Democratic convention, which was held in the gymnasium of a middle school in Concord, the state capital. Several delegates and other attendees noted there was no air conditioning in the hot gym.
“I cut my speech short because I saw people were sweating,” Richardson joked with reporters following his appearance.
Apparently only “second-tier” candidates showed up for Saturday’s event. Richardson’s speech followed talks by Sens. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd and Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Each got a resounding reception from the delegates, who were generous with their standing ovations.
A couple dozen Richardson volunteers stood at the side of the stage and cheered as Richardson spoke. They were enthusiastic, but not as loud as Dodd’s supporters, who used inflatable plastic “thunder sticks” to increase the decibels when they applauded their candidate.
Among Richardson’s supporters at the convention were Walter “Butch” Maki and his wife, Patty Maki, who parked their sleek bus — decorated with Richardson banners — across the street from Rundlett Middle School.
Butch Maki — a former Richardson congressional staff member who now lives in his native New Hampshire — is a former Santa Fe resident who still owns a large lobbying firm in New Mexico. As he held a Richardson sign to greet people walking up the driveway to the school, he said he’s mainly been working on Richardson’s campaign in recent months.
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