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GLOBE NH | MORNING REPORT

Why Maria Perez was the latest N.H. lawmaker to leave the Democratic party

Being an independent, the state representative said, she’ll have the opportunity to work with either Democrats or Republicans. But her progressive ideals, she insisted, remain unchanged.

An exterior view of the New Hampshire state capitol building in Concord is pictured.Jim Davis For The Boston Globe

The balance of power in the New Hampshire House has been like a fidgety pupil: constantly shifting.

Last week, the Republicans lost Representative Troy Merner, who resigned after an investigation revealed he no longer lived in the district he represented. And this week, Representative Maria Perez decided to leave the Democratic party. She is now officially listed as an independent, and her party-switch widens the narrow margin Republicans have over Democrats: The House now has 198 Republicans, 195 Democrats, and 3 independents. Additionally, a newly elected Democrat, Hal Rafter of Nottingham, will be sworn in soon.

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(For those who are curious, that total includes 246 men and 150 women. There are 3 vacancies).

Perez said she emigrated to the United States from El Salvador in 1986 to escape violence in her home country. According to a September report from WMUR, she is one of just three Latinos currently in the New Hampshire House. Her path to that seat hasn’t been easy. In that interview, she also described enduring sexual abuse from the time she was just 5 years old, and being sold into an arranged marriage in the US.

She’s now serving her second term in the New Hampshire House, representing Milford, and she’s been outspoken on labor issues, immigrant rights, and abortion access.

Perez, who considers herself a progressive, said her style created friction with party leadership, prompting her to leave. While President Joe Biden is seen as the obvious presidential nominee by many in the Democratic party, Perez endorsed longshot candidate Marianne Williamson because she wanted a challenger to have the opportunity to be on the ballot.

She said her tactics have not yielded the results she’d like.

“I feel like I’ve been pushed to the side,” she said. She said she was disillusioned, watching politicians who did the party’s bidding receive recognition, and felt increasingly sidelined.

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“I’m to the point where I no longer feel welcome anymore, or like my voice doesn’t really matter,” she said.

Perez said she’s been asked to stay silent about the issues that are most important to her, like immigrant rights, when it might hurt another Democrat’s campaign.

A spokesperson for Democratic leadership in the House said the caucus has fought hard to support various immigration efforts, like requiring notice of immigration checkpoints and blocking a bill that would ban sanctuary cities. And just last week, House Democratic leadership met with the NH Immigrant Rights Network to discuss challenges facing this community.

Being an independent, Perez said, she’ll have the opportunity to work with either Democrats or Republicans. But her progressive ideals, she insisted, remain unchanged.

“Moving forward I’m going to continue supporting LGBTQ communities, continue supporting public education, livable wages,” she said.


This story first appeared in Globe NH | Morning Report, our free newsletter focused on the news you need to know about New Hampshire, including great coverage from the Boston Globe and links to interesting articles from other places. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Amanda Gokee can be reached at amanda.gokee@globe.com. Follow her @amanda_gokee.