Bay State activists pour passions into New Hampshire

They are the volunteers, the activists, the true believers who see Tuesday’s presidential election as crucial to the fate of the nation. They are willing to knock on hundreds of doors or make thousands of calls, driven by the desire to help sway the vote in favor of their presidential candidate.

Trouble is, they reside in Massachusetts, where polls project an easy win for President Obama over Republican Mitt Romney. So dedicated followers of both presidential candidates are taking their talents to the places where the election will be decided; some are stumping in distant swing states, but many are volunteering just over the border in New Hampshire.

“It’s a battleground state. We think Mitt has a great chance to win here — it’s a no-brainer,” said Sherry Charley, a former high school history teacher who lives in Westford. She has been helping out in Romney’s Nashua campaign office since the summer, often working five-day weeks and some weekends, along with other volunteers from Groton, Chelmsford, and Acton. “We’re here to make a difference,” she said.


Charley volunteered for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election and campaigned for Scott Brown in the 2010 special election for the US Senate. Brown’s run for reelection against Democrat Elizabeth Warren is one of the closest, hardest-fought and most-watched Senate races in the country. But Charley sees helping fight Romney’s battle for New Hampshire’s four electoral votes as the most important place for her to be this time.

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“If you don’t have good leadership, nothing else really matters,” Charley said. “And so for me, as much as I wanted to help Scott Brown’s campaign, I just felt I had to spend my entire time with Romney.”

Margaret Rolph of Walpole also said she believes she has persuaded some undecided voters — to choose Obama. She has been traveling to southern New Hampshire for several months, with small groups of Democratic volunteers, targeting the addresses of registered voters, people new to the state, and people who have not taken part in recent elections.

“I know very well that it’s kind of a numbers game, that just me talking to a couple of hundred people over time isn’t going to change anything,” she said. “But with the other volunteers, you’re hoping that maybe you’ve swayed a couple of thousand people and that, maybe, might have an effect for those four electoral votes.”

Rolph said she would have liked to travel to a swing state with more electoral votes at stake — say Ohio, which has 18 — but “New Hampshire was more practical.”


For Sarah Hudson, an Obama supporter who lives in Boston, helping get out the vote in Florida, where 29 electoral votes hang in the balance, turned out to be more practical. She is from the state, her family still lives there, and her sister is getting married there — to a Republican — the weekend after the election.

Though Hudson lives in the bluest of states, she knows what it is like to grow up in the minority: Her hometown, Sarasota, leans Republican, she said.

Kate Kelaher, a small-business owner who lives in Acton and volunteers for Romney, has had a similar experience.

“I’m a native New Yorker,” she said. “I’m used to being in the land of the Democrats. You have the courage of your convictions.”

Kelaher met Charley when they were both volunteering for Brown in 2010, and this year joined her in Nashua stumping for Romney. Not everyone she approaches is happy to see her, or hear her on the phone.


“There are people who are a little incensed, but I think that it’s really rare,” Kelaher said.

Deniz Karakoyunlu was a little apprehensive that some voters he met knocking on doors for Obama during the weekend might not have been happy to see him — a fear he said later proved unfounded.

Karakoyunlu is a native of Turkey who earned a PhD at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and works as a senior software engineer in Marlborough. He cannot vote because he is not a US citizen. But he can stump for Obama.

“If Obama gets a single vote out of my efforts, I can say: I did not vote for him, but I made a vote happen,” he said.

David Filipov can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @davidfilipov.