Sarette is a Republican who pays little attention to party labels. “I’m voting for Jeanne,” he declares.
Why? “The guy isn’t even from here,” Sarette says. “He says he’s from here because he has a summer camp or something here. Hey, I’m not a moron. He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know us.”
“Still a small state,” Lou D’Allesandro adds, “and a small town. It’s about relationships. Look at me: Fifty years in the same house. Fifty years married to the same woman, the magnificent Pat. The business is about more than TV ads or handshakes, it’s about relationships.”
“You got that right, Lou,” Sarette agrees.
Now, state Senator Lou D’Allessandro, former teacher, high-school football coach, college athletic director, instructor at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, is back behind the wheel, taking a right on Boynton Street, driving a mile or so before pulling into a gas station owned by Saeed Ahmed.
Ahmed is 39. He was born in Pakistan and came to Manchester in 1999. He is married with three children. He is now an American citizen, and he rushes out of his station as soon as he sees D’Allesandro, as if a wonderful gift has just arrived.
“My friend, my friend,” Ahmed says, hugging Lou, shaking his hand. “I was going to call you today. I need more cards. More signs too.”
“Remi,” D’Allesandro says to his campaign manager Remi Francoeur, who is with him, “can we get Saeed more cards and signs today?”
“Done,” Francoeur says.
“Saeed came here speaking no English,” D’Allesandro says. “We helped him with that. Helped him start a business. Helped him get a loan. He pays all his bills. He now owns three stations—two in Manchester, one in Derry. His kids are in school here. He owns his own home, pays his taxes. He is a great American.”
“Whatever you need,” Saeed Ahmed tells his state senator. “I’m for Shaheen. I’m for you. I’m for America.”
Now Lou is back in the car, driving along the Merrimack River and the old brick factories that formed the spine of the Amoskeag Mills, once the economic engine, the paycheck, for thousands. Many of the buildings have been brought up to date and now house other, newer, smaller companies. New Hampshire, like so many other states in the northeast, has seen the work go from wool to shoes to electronics to finance. They’ve seen the work go to North Carolina, Texas, and other regions as history and a corporate lust for lower power costs and bigger tax incentives have left so many behind with smaller paychecks, haunting economic insecurity, and incomes that simply do not keep pace with the cost of getting through a single week.
“She has to win,” Lou D’Allesandro is saying about Jeanne Shaheen. “And I think she will because she has a much better get-out-the-vote operation. It’s close but she’ll win I think because people know her. They’re angry at Obama, at politicians in general, at no jobs, at a lot of things but you can’t eat angry. You can’t eat fear.”
As he says this, he is pulling into the parking lot of the Puritan Backroom restaurant. There, he bumps into Irene Messier, who is 92 years old.
“Lou, I already voted for you. Early voting and I voted for you and I voted for Jeanne too.”
“Thank you, Irene,” Lou D’Allesandro, a man fully invested in politics and people tells her. “I really appreciate it. It’s always better to be one ahead than one behind. Thank you.”