“It’s fun and infuriating,” state Rep. Ed Butler told the Washington Blade.
Butler spoke with the Blade in the sunroom of the Notchland Inn, which he owns with his husband in the town of Hart’s Location.
Hart’s Location, which is located within Crawford Notch in the White Mountains, has a population of 41. The self-described “smallest town in New Hampshire” is a few miles south of Bretton Woods and the Mount Washington Hotel.
Butler told the Blade the primary “takes over our airways, phones, our mail.” Butler further stressed that it “intrudes into just about everything we do.”
“At the same time it’s a really wonderful privilege and opportunity to be this involved in the early part of the presidential campaign,” he said as his dog Gypsy slept on the floor next to the chair in which he was sitting.
Butler has been a member of the New Hampshire House since his 2006 election. He has lived in Hart’s Location since 1993.
Town votes first in N.H. primary
Hart’s Location voters since 1996 have cast the first votes in the New Hampshire primary.
The dining room of Butler’s inn served as the town’s polling place in the 1996 and 2000 primaries. The town’s registered voters who plan to cast ballot in this year’s primary will gather at the Hart’s Location Town Office — which is two old Appalachian Mountain Club hostel buildings fused together — at midnight on Feb. 9.
“We brought them down the notch and bunked them together,” Butler told the Blade. “That’s our town hall now. It’s very small, very basic.”Butler said one Hart’s Location resident who plans to vote in the primary is a college student in Boston who plans to return to her hometown to cast her ballot. A Reuters television crew is also expected to cover the event that takes place at midnight.
“It’s the energy, it’s the excitement,” said Butler, referring to the primary. “Doing the first-in-the-nation vote at midnight just highlights how special it can be.”
Butler defends Clinton over marriage evolution
Butler has endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
He introduced Clinton last year at a Democratic dinner that took place at a resort in the nearby town of Bartlett. Butler noted to the Blade the former secretary of state has made other appearances in northern New Hampshire since she announced her latest run for president.
“She’s going to be the best president,” said Butler.
Supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) continue to point out that Clinton publicly opposed marriage rights for same-sex couples until she left the State Department in 2013. They also note that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in 1996 signed the Defense of Marriage Act.
“She’s a politician,” said Butler in response to the Blade’s question about Clinton’s position on nuptials for gays and lesbians. “Her husband is a politician. It was politically necessary for him to sign DOMA.”
“Could he have done something differently?” he asked, hypothetically. “Maybe, but what position would we be in now if he hasn’t then? There is an evolution to issues.”
Butler noted to the Blade that he helped organize the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979. He said helped to coordinate what he described as the “disco train to get people down there from New York” where he was living at the time.
“I never thought that we would see marriage,” said Butler. “The world has evolved, the country has evolved.”
Butler further noted Clinton’s efforts in support of LGBT rights abroad as secretary of state, including her landmark “gay rights are human rights” speech she delivered in Geneva in 2011. The address coincided with President Obama’s directive to agencies that implement U.S. foreign policy to promote LGBT rights.
“Hillary in her work as secretary of state brought LGBT equality issues around the world,” said Butler. “I don’t fault her not knowing enough and not having enough experience or being politically practical in her position from years ago.”
Butler told the Blade that Hillary would also know “better how to make something like” the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law, “happen.”
Trump ‘not going to be the president’
Butler said the Republican presidential candidates are “not saying much” about LGBT-specific issues ahead of the primary.
“It’s not politically viable,” he said.
Butler conceded marriage rights for same-sex couples “is still not settled” within the Republican Party. He expressed surprise over Donald Trump’s suggestion ahead of the Iowa GOP caucus that he would appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who would overturn last June’s ruling in the Obergefell case.
“That surprises the shit out of me,” said Butler, noting the fact that Trump is from New York. “He’s not going to be the nominee and he’s not going to be the president.”
Butler also predicted that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will soon end his campaign.
“Christie is a very smart political gamesman, but I think that his star is on the descent,” said Butler.
Drug abuse ‘happening everywhere’
Butler told the Blade that candidates should discuss marriage rights for same-sex couples as a way of “reinforcing that gain.” He said that they should not focus on non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity and other issues “that are politically sensitive and more difficult to discuss.”
“Those issues are for some people to advocate for, but not to become a central issue in the campaign,” said Butler.
Butler said that talking about increased funding for the fight against HIV/AIDS is a “good thing.” He conceded, however, he doesn’t know whether it would benefit either the Clinton or Sanders campaign.
“It would be good to get them on record to know where they’re at and what they understand about the issue,” said Butler. “HIV/AIDS on the world stage is an important issue to discuss.”
Butler also discussed New Hampshire’s heroin epidemic.
The Concord Monitor last month reported that state officials in 2015 reported 399 confirmed deaths due to drug overdoses.
Butler told the Blade that a town police chief in his district with whom he attended a conference said nearly all of the calls her department receives are “drug-related.”
He also said two people who are addicted to drugs stole money from a safe in his female friend’s home.
The woman’s friend who was watching her house while she was on vacation allowed their friends to stay “for a few days.”
“These people broke open the safe, stole the money and luckily were caught,” said Butler. “It’s happening everywhere.”