February 8, 2016 at 9:34 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
N.H. Democratic Party chair: A Trump primary win ‘unfortunate’
Ray Buckley, New Hampshire primary, gay news, Washington Blade

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley in downtown Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 8, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party on Monday said it would be “unfortunate” if Donald Trump wins his state’s Republican primary.

“It would be very unfortunate for the primary if he was successful tomorrow,” Ray Buckley told the Washington Blade.

Buckley, who is gay, spoke with the Blade in a coffee shop in downtown Manchester that is across the street from a group of windows in an office building that has dozens of Trump campaign signs taped to it.

The former member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives described Trump as “outrageous” and someone who “crosses the line in nearly every instance.” Buckley also told the Blade that the Republican Party has “been feeding that sort of behavior as a way to undermine” President Obama.

“Now it’s coming back and biting them in the ass,” said Buckley.

Republican candidates ‘all hate and fear’

Buckley spoke with the Blade a couple of hours before a gay man challenged U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) over his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples at a Manchester restaurant that the family of gay New Hampshire Executive Councilman Chris Pappas owns and operates. Trump himself later in the day spoke to thousands of his supporters at the nearby Verizon Wireless Arena.

“It’s all hate and fear and gloom and doom,” Buckley told the Blade, referring to the Republican presidential candidates and their rhetoric ahead of the primary. “It’s just trying to scare the bejesus out of the voters.”

Buckley said this rhetoric counters that from the Democratic presidential candidates.

“Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are bringing a positive message of hope, talking about how we can make America better,” he told the Blade.

Both Clinton and Sanders on Feb. 5 spoke at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s annual fundraiser that also took place at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

Sanders, a self-described Democratic Socialist, highlighted his vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Clinton for her part referenced anti-LGBT discrimination in her speech to the thousands of people who attended the event.

Buckley is also a vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee. The New Hampshire Democratic Party and the DNC prevent him from publicly endorsing a specific candidate.

Buckley was vice chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party when he backed then-U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in the 2004 primary. Buckley four years later voted for former President Jimmy Carter as a write-in.

“I intend on voting for Jimmy Carter again,” said Buckley. “I’ll be the only person in New Hampshire who voted for Jimmy Carter.”

Buckley in response to a question about issues that have not been discussed ahead of the primary said that both Sanders and Clinton have “pretty much covered it all.” Buckley criticized the Republican candidates for not talking about the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Mich., in Saturday’s debate that took place at St. Anselm College in Manchester.

“Their talking points and discussions are so far off the edge and of the mainstream,” he told the Blade. “I watch those debates and it’s just baffling to me how they think that they’re going to get back to the center for the general election.”

Ayotte ‘against the people’ of N.H.

Buckley during the interview also criticized U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who is facing a challenge from Democratic New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Buckley noted Ayotte’s opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples, even though the majority of New Hampshire Republicans support the issue. He also criticized her over her positions against raising the minimum wage and increased gun safety measures.

“These are overwhelmingly positions that she’s against the people of New Hampshire,” said Buckley.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan speaks at a campaign event for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan speaks at a campaign event for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Manchester, N.H., on Feb. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Buckley predicted that Ayotte in November will lose to Hassan.

“I just don’t see that she has the sort of warmth and connection with the people of New Hampshire that (U.S. Sen.) Jeanne Shaheen has,” Buckley told the Blade.

N.H. voters ‘interview the candidates’

Buckley throughout the interview praised New Hampshire residents who vote in their state’s first-in-the-nation primary.

“It is really something we take very seriously,” he told the Blade. “While it might look really fun on television, to most voters it’s work. They interview the candidates. They go out and go and meet with them and talk with them.”

Buckley said that New Hampshire voters also help raise awareness of issues, such as heroin and opiate use that has reached epidemic levels in the state and around the country. He added that the primary and the Iowa caucuses in recent election cycles have also proven that speaking against marriage rights for same-sex couples is no longer an effective campaign strategy.

“[New Hampshire is] uniquely qualified to have the first primary because we really encourage participation,” Buckley told the Blade. “Civil responsibility is very much part of being from New Hampshire.”

Buckley noted that roughly 40 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats remain undecided. He also pointed those who want to cast their ballot in the primary can register to vote at their respective polling places on Election Day.

“Tens of thousands of people are going to wake up tomorrow as unregistered voters, but will have gone to the polls, registered and will have had their voices heard,” said Buckley.

Buckley also responded to critics of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary who say the state is small and lacks diversity.

He noted the large Latino and African American populations in Nevada and South Carolina, which hold their respective caucuses and primaries later this month. Buckley added that LGBT-specific issues and other concerns “get brought forward” in the four early voting states that “probably wouldn’t be in some of the other states.”

“So for our community, New Hampshire plays a critical role,” he said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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