New Hampshire progressives say they’ve had enough of Sen. Maggie Hassan and what they call her “racist” policies on immigration, and they’re not planning to support her re-election in November.
Tension between Granite State progressives and the governing establishment is nothing new. What is notable, however, is the willingness of progressive activists to criticize a powerful incumbent Democrat so publicly.
“Maggie Hassan is racist. No need to dance around the obvious for much longer,” said Marcus Ponce de Leon, until recently an executive team member of the New Hampshire Democratic Latino Caucus.
Rep. Maria Perez, D-Milford, another leader of the Latino Caucus, says she’s been trying to get Hassan to meet with members of the Latino community for months, to listen to their concerns about her immigration stance. Perez has finally had enough with the state’s junior senator.
“I asked Hassan today for a time to meet and she said that she’s not meeting with us and if we need to ask questions to speak with someone in her office,” Perez said over the weekend. “I’m done supporting someone who doesn’t have time to meet with us.”
After her narrow victory in 2016 — she defeated incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) by just 1,017 votes — Hassan was a reliably liberal vote, voting with Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer 96 percent of the time. But as the political climate changed and her re-election approached, Hassan began shifting her stances on issues like increased drilling for oil, tax cuts for fossil fuels and building more of Trump’s border wall — all positions she voted against in the past.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was Hassan’s trip to the southern border, where she recorded a video calling for more enforcement and “physical barriers” while standing in front of a barb-wire laced section of the Trump wall. She also endorsed continuing the Title 42 policy put in place during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic by the Trump administration, allowing border officials to immediately turn away would-be undocumented migrants without allowing them into the country.
Ponce de Leon said Hassan’s supporters in the New Hampshire Democratic Party are endorsing white supremacy by not holding her to account. He called the New Hampshire Democratic Party an embarrassing disappointment.
“I’m struggling with parsing white supremacy vs. those who support @SenatorHassan … Today many of them flat out said they didn’t care what black and brown people are going through. They chanted ‘603 for Maggie’ as if they hadn’t heard our testimonies,” Ponce de Leon wrote on Twitter. He was referencing the chaotic scene outside the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office Friday when progressives and Hassan backers tried to shout each other down as the senator filed to run for re-election. Security had to repeatedly intervene, and Hassan was eventually forced to flee the Secretary of State’s office out the back door.
Talking to reporters after her filing, Hassan appeared to confirm Perez’s account that the senator is unwilling to meet with Latino leaders.
“I have spoken with some of their members and my team continues to have conversations,” Hassan said. “But we have a disagreement here,” Hassan said. “I do not think the administration should lift Title 42 until there are resources at the border to ensure safety and security. All sides of this issue agree that, when Title 42 is lifted, we’re going to see an increase in illegal border crossing attempts,” she said. “I respect they have a disagreement with me about this. At the end of the day, I need to stand up for the safety and security of my state and my country.”
Progressives are not satisfied.
Several weeks ago, activist Asma Elhuni confronted Hassan at a public event, an encounter caught on video. Rather than answer Elhuni’s questions, Hassan responded by telling the young activist she didn’t know what she was talking about.
“First of all, you have some facts wrong,” Hassan said. “What I understand is what I need to do is to make sure that we have a safe, orderly migration at the border.” Hassan also claimed she had spoken to migrant families and was genuinely interested in their concerns.
“You’re actions speak louder than your words,” Elhuni responded.
“You’re not interested in hearing my side,” Hassan concluded and walked away, accompanied by her handlers.
Robin Vogt, co-chair of the New Hampshire Progressive Coalition, called Hassan’s immigration policies disgusting, and he said Democrats who do not take progressive issues seriously will start to face challenges from the left.
“Holding my own party accountable does not mean myself and others are being ‘unreasonable’. It simply means that we are ready for political leadership to start listening and take action here in New Hampshire. If not, we come for your seats, and you will get called out,” Vogt wrote on Twitter.
Hassan is viewed as unusually vulnerable in a state that rarely votes for Republicans at the federal level and where no GOP challenger has yet emerged from the Republican field. The conservative group One Nation just announced a nearly $1 million buy targeting Hassan, who narrowly won the seat in 2016 by just 1.017 votes.
Ironically, progressive attacks on Hassan could fit in with her campaign strategy of triangulating against her own party. The Associated Press published a story Monday listing Hassan as one of several Democrats “actively trying to distance themselves” from the Democratic Party. They note she’s running a TV ad accusing Democrats of getting the issue of gas prices wrong (“I’m taking on members of my own party to push a gas tax holiday.”)
On the one hand, polls show the Democratic Party is struggling to earn voters’ trust on the top issues of the day — the economy, gas prices, crime and the border. On the other, Hassan’s approval ratings continue to lag in the low to mid 40’s, meaning she needs an energized Democratic base to turn out if she hopes to win re-election. Will they turn out?
“Senator Maggie Hassan will criticize Trump when he’s in office but literally support those same racist policies as if her party’s name will always protect her,” Elhuni tweeted this weekend. “This is the time for bravery. People need to stand up to Hassan and say no to racism.”