Gary and Lenore Patton, county chairs of the Democratic Party, are used to hosting gatherings at their Hampton home. However, Saturday's party challenged the capacity of both their home and the side streets. Dozens of cars lined the narrow, snow-packed street. Several parked cars proudly displayed bumper stickers that read "1-20-09, Bush's last day."
Over 85 people attended the afternoon house party featuring presidential candidate Bill Richardson. Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and State Sen. Maggie Hassan were also in attendance.
Allen Norelli of Portsmouth admitted that he was "tagging along" with his wife, Terie Norelli, New Hampshire Speaker of the House. However, he did have his own political concerns.
"We've got to do something with Iraq, global warming and energy. Getting our budget balanced also, we're killing our kids with this."
Norelli was excited to hear Richardson speak but admitted that he's "not committing (to a candidate) yet."
"It's way too early," said Norelli.
Richardson, the current two-term governor of New Mexico, touts a strong resume and impressive background in international affairs. Richardson was a congressman for 15 years, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize four times, served as energy secretary under President Clinton and was also ambassador to the United Nations.
While standing over a table full of homemade sweets, Richardson said to a crowd filling the living room that "this election is too important to judge on name ID's and glamour."
He outlined several key points that define his presidential platform. Getting out of Iraq in one calendar year topped his list, followed by "improving our standing in the world." Richardson named climate change as a key issue, as well as education reform, which includes raising teacher salaries and providing preschool for children under 4.
Healthcare also topped the Governor's list. He's a strong advocate of universal healthcare, although he admits that he doesn't yet know how he would pay for it.
"I've only been a candidate for three weeks!" he said jokingly.
A question and answer session followed his speech. Lynne Snierson of Salem was pleased with Richardson's response to her question about his stance on abortion.
"I was very gratified to hear he stands with me on the issue. He supports Roe vs. Wade."
Although Richardson is Catholic he does support a woman's right to choose. He is in favor or providing preventative measures, such as increasing high quality sex education.
Richardson's entourage practically had to pull him off stage at 3 p.m. He took three final questions and was escorted out the door, smiling and shaking as many hands as he could.
"I'm extremely excited about Bill Richardson," said Troy Hartley of Exeter. "He has the experience … at this moment, I'm committed to vote Richardson."