February 8, 2016 at 11:21 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
N.H. voters relish state’s first-in-the-nation primary

New Hampshire primary, gay news, Washington Blade

A young supporter of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Feb. 5, 2016, stands outside the Democratic presidential debate at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H.(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Locals and out-of-towners alike on Saturday night were at the Breezeway, a gay bar on the corner of Elm and Pearl Streets in downtown Manchester.

Drag queens from New Hampshire and Boston who postponed their show the night before because of a snowstorm took to the stage. Supporters of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from New York who came to New Hampshire to campaign for her ahead of the state’s primary danced during intermissions.

One of the drag queens called Jimmy Kyriazakos of Manchester to the stage.

Kyriazakos, who supports Clinton, spun a wheel to choose a song for a drag queen to sing. The former secretary of state’s supporters from New York began to chant “Hillary” after the Manchester resident identified himself by her name.

“The best times of my life have been meeting her,” Kyriazakos told the Washington Blade, noting he has met Clinton five times in New Hampshire. “[She is] somebody that I can relate to, but more importantly she can relate to me.”

Primary is ‘pretty cool’

Kyriazakos and other LGBT Granite Staters with whom the Blade has spoken over the last week all said they take the state’s first-in-the-nation primary very seriously.

Audrey Johnson of Brookline was among the University of New Hampshire students who were at the University of New Hampshire’s Office of Multicultural Affairs on Feb. 4 before Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) squared off in the last Democratic presidential debate before Tuesday’s primary.

“It’s pretty cool to be in a state where so much is happening,” said Johnson.

Johnson — who has already voted for Sanders via absentee ballot — joked that she was unable to get a ticket for the Feb. 4 debate that took place on the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham. Several media trucks were parked outside the building in which Johnson and other students spoke with the Blade.

“Unfortunately I couldn’t get tickets,” said Johnson, referring to the debate. “But it is still cool to know that it’s happening here and the candidates are probably on campus right now.”

Angela Anichenako of Manchester had a similar view about the primary.

“It’s actually getting busy right now,” she told the Blade on Saturday as she played pool at the Breezeway. “It’s all over.”

Anichenako said she would “probably” support Clinton.

The Manchester resident described Sanders as “a good guy” who is “a little bit old to be president.” A fellow Breezeway patron described Kyriazakos as a “terrorist” after he identified himself by Clinton’s first name when a drag queen called him to the stage.

The Blade on Sunday overheard two older women at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Bristol talking about the Republican presidential debate that took place the day before at St. Anselm College.

“Donald Trump controlled himself last night,” said one of the women. “He’s a smart guy.”

A man who spoke with the women said Trump and the other candidates “gave it to” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) during the debate. One of the women also complained about the campaign calls she has received.

“Every time I sit down for dinner that phone’s ringing,” she said.

Voters ‘can meet somebody when we want’

New Hampshire Gay Men’s Chorus President Stephen MacInnes spoke to the Blade on Feb. 5 before he and members of his group performed the national anthem and “God Bless America” at a New Hampshire Democratic Party fundraiser that took place at the Verizon Wireless Arena in downtown Manchester.

MacInnes, a Clinton supporter who lives in Candia, said he is “used to” the attention the primary receives. He also praised his fellow Granite Staters for the way they become involved in the election process.

“We have the retail politics, which is wonderful,” said MacInnes. “We can meet somebody when we want to and speak one-to-one, eye-to-eye.”

Suzi White of Franklin on Sunday shared a similar viewpoint as she spoke with the Blade during a Super Bowl watch party for Clinton supporters at the Tilton Inn in Tilton.

White, who is originally from Arizona, has attended campaign events for Sanders and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. She said she has “no interest whatsoever” in seeing Trump.

White told the Blade that the first campaign event she attended in New Hampshire was a potluck dinner at a person’s home ahead of the 2004 primary. She said the host told her when she arrived that retired Gen. Wesley Clark was the guest speaker.

White said the entire cast of “Pushing Daisies” who was canvassing in Franklin ahead of the 2008 primary was in her house. She told the Blade that former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele on Saturday shook her husband’s hand in Manchester after they attended the taping of an MSNBC interview with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about supporting Clinton.

One of Trump’s sons on Sunday spoke on behalf of his father at a town hall in Franklin.

“When the town halls are happening, you’re in the room with the presidential candidate and maybe 60 people,” said White. “You also don’t know who’s going to arrive at your door.”

Actress Meredith Baxter, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce President Justin Nelson and Out and Equal CEO Selisse Berry were among those who were also at the Super Bowl watch party with White. Gay New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney was at the Breezeway on Saturday.

Brad Dumont, choir director of the Plymouth Congregational Church, on Sunday told the Blade during an interview at a coffee shop in downtown Plymouth before a Trump campaign event at nearby Plymouth State University that the primary has “been a little exhausting.”

The Sanders supporter who travels between Plymouth and Rochester said he receives a daily barrage of campaign calls between 5-10 p.m. He nevertheless said he likes “to be involved.”

Jim Boyle, the owner of a Toyota dealership in Portsmouth that hosted U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Feb. 4, agreed as he spoke to the hundreds of supporters who had gathered for the campaign event.

“We take this first-in-the-nation primary pretty serious,” said Boyle.

Hundreds of Cruz supporters were at the event that took place three days after the Texas Republican won the Iowa GOP caucus. Former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith and former New Hampshire House of Representatives Speaker Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) also spoke.

New Hampshire primary, gay news, Washington Blade

Supporters of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) gather at a Toyota dealership in Portsmouth, N.H., on Feb. 4, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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

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