The House Democrats’ internal warfare continues as yet another state rep is publicly denouncing a fellow Democrat over her alleged use of the “N-word” in the State House last month. Such high-profile political attacks are almost unheard of from the Democratic caucus, whose members pride themselves on public unity.
In the wake of the Nicole Klein Knight case, the facade of unity has crumbled.
Rep. Manny Espitia (D-Nashua), who also serves as president of the New Hampshire Young Democrats, released a statement Thursday denouncing Klein Knight’s behavior and withdrawing the organization’s endorsement of her candidacy. And, he added, she put the life of a young, Black male activist in potential danger on January 20 when she called State House security.
“The New Hampshire Young Democrats are appalled and deeply disappointed by Rep. Nicole Klein Knight’s use of a racial slur and threatening actions toward a young Black constituent,” Espitia wrote. “It is especially unconscionable that Rep. Klein Knight utilized intimidation tactics and racial slurs against a Black constituent after he used his voice to testify on a bill and bravely participated in our democratic process.”
According to the young man, Jonah Wheeler, Klein Knight used the “N-word” more than 20 times while haranguing him in the State House. Multiple sources tell NHJournal she was trying to confront what she believed were antisemitic statements and attitudes among BIPOC members of the progressive community.
Espitia made no allowances for a potentially misunderstood motive in his statement. And he suggested Klein Knight endangered Wheeler’s life by calling security because of the potential racism of State House security officers.
“Rep. Klein Knight represents one of the most racially diverse districts in the state and should therefore feel an even greater responsibility to uplift Black, Brown and Indigenous voices. Instead, she engaged in degrading, bigoted behavior against a young Black man, eventually calling security on him, despite being fully cognizant of the heightened dangers Black men face in this country in the presence of law enforcement.”
(In fact, white suspects are more likely to be shot by police than black suspects according to the available data.)
“Rep. Klein Knight’s actions make clear that she does not uphold the values of the NHYD. As such, we have removed her from our lists of endorsed leaders,” Espitia wrote.
Espitia’s anti-law-enforcement comment is exactly the sort of progressive politics some mainstream NH Democrats worry will make a bad 2022 election cycle even worse. Granite State Democrats like Rep. Chris Pappas, who faces an uphill fight for re-election, have worked hard to distance themselves from the “Defund the Police” movement among progressive members of the Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, some House Democrats, like Rep. Paul Berch (D-Westmoreland), insist there is more to the Klein Knight story than the information currently available. They have urged their fellow caucus members to withhold judgment. Others, like Rep. Casey Conley (D-Dover), say progressives are “settling scores” by piling on Klein Knight.
But the consensus among NH Democrats who’ve spoken to NHJournal on background is that none of this would be happening if there were any leadership in the caucus. Health issues have sidelined Minority Leader Rep. Renny Cushing, who has refused to give up his leadership position.
“Somebody needs to tell these [expletives] to shut their mouths,” one Democrat said of House Democrats. “But nobody is there to herd the cats.”