Bergeron: First objective is to maintain a strong relationship with our conservative grassroots community
In an exclusive e-mail interview with the NH Journal candidate for New Hampshire State Party Chair, Juliana Bergeron, laid out her reasons for running; outlined her goals for the party; and set the record straight on her conservative credentials.
She has the endorsement of the outgoing Party Chair, Governor John H. Sununu, but bristles at the establishment label and is adamant that her candidacy is about what she can do to move the party forward. “I made up my mind to seek the chairmanship because I think I can make a significant contribution to our state party. That is the reason why I am running. If elected I am going to serve all Republicans including both new activists and longtime party stalwarts,” said Bergeron.
“The first objective is to maintain a strong relationship with our conservative grassroots community. If we don’t have people who want to be Republicans and want to vote for Republican candidates, it doesn’t matter what the State Committee does. Second, we need to raise the resources needed to hire staff, support our candidates and compete with Ray Buckley’s special interest money machine. Third, we need to promote a message that focuses on conservative values and our support for lower taxes, less spending and limited government,” continued Bergeron in outlining her priorities for the Party.
And just because she lives in one of the most liberal cities in New Hampshire she is a conservative through and through. “I’m a fiscal and social conservative who supports traditional marriage, lower taxes, limited government, and is pro-life. I’m also a gun owner and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment”, added Bergeron.
Below is a complete transcript of the e-mail interview:
NHJ: To start off in one sentence why do you want the thankless job of Chair of the NH Republican State Party?
Juliana Bergeron: I want to build on the enormous progress that State Committee has made over the past two years, help support our newly elected officials and keep New Hampshire red for years to come.
NHJ: What led you to decide that you should stand up and take on this campaign?
JB: Within a few days after the November election, Governor Sununu made it clear to party activists that he was considering retirement. I began to think about what had been accomplished during his tenure and how far the party had come after our devastating defeats in 2006 and 2008. For the first time in years we had a strong State Committee that had the staff, resources and message to fully support our candidates. I wanted to ensure that the NHGOP would continue to grow and I thought that I had the skills, background and philosophy needed to do the job. I spoke to my family, friends and party leaders including Governor Sununu about running for chairman and received an extremely positive response. Before making a final decision, I asked the party staff in Concord for information about the State Committee’s operating budget, its fundraising and other issues to get a better sense of what it actually takes to run the organization. After careful consideration I decided that I was able to make the personal and professional sacrifices needed to take on the job and I jumped into the race shortly after the governor made his retirement official.
NHJ: Many folks may not know a lot about your background tell us a little about yourself? Hobbies?
JB: I enjoy golfing, skiing, swimming and target shoots at the Cheshire Fish and Game Club.
JB: I’ve been married for 25 years to my husband Arto Leino who holds dual citizenship with the United States and Finland. I have one son, Eli, who is a former NHGOP intern, a former page at the 2008 RNC Convention in Minneapolis and a recent graduate of Hamilton College.
NHJ: The book you are reading right now?
JB: I’m reading Decision Points by George W. Bush and Faithful Place by Tana French.
NHJ: Governor Sununu made a lot out of your business background, tell us about your business experiences?
JB: For the last 30 years I’ve worked as a financial adviser. I started with John Hancock Insurance and later joined Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. My business revolves around personal and business planning and is divided into three areas: investments, employee benefits, and insurances. I’m a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Roundtable, a former director of the New Hampshire Society of Financial Service Professionals, and a longtime member of the Keene Chamber of Commerce. I am also a current board member and past chair of the Monadnock Economic Development Corporation, a non-profit organization that promotes economic development in the Monadnock region.
NHJ: As you know fund-raising is a vital part of the Chair’s role, what kinds of fundraising have you done in the past?
JB: For the past 30 years I have served as a volunteer and professional fundraiser. I was the chairman of the development committee for the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to build new facilities on the campus. I served as the president of the Monadnock Ice Center Association which raised $1.5 million for a proposed ice arena in Cheshire County. I currently serve on the Cheshire Health foundation development board, which is a division of the Cheshire Health Foundation. As President of the Keene Rotary I raised funds for the Rotary Foundation and several other nonprofits including Jane’s Kids which supplies clothing to underprivileged children. I’ve raised money for my county committee to fund a fully functioning Cheshire Victory office during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles and for advertising campaigns in area newspapers. I’ve hosted countless fundraisers over the years for the NHGOP and for candidates including newly elected Senator Kelly Ayotte, Executive Council candidate (and now State Rep.) Steve Stepanek, and Judd Gregg during his campaigns for Congress.
NHJ: What amounts of money have you raised for various organizations before?
JB: The biggest single fundraising project that I worked on was the Monadnock Ice Center Foundation which raised $1.5 million. The amounts for other organizations varies, but totals hundreds of thousands of dollars.
NHJ: How long have you been involved in republican politics?
JB: For over 40 years I’ve been a grassroots activist and worked on Republican campaigns. I worked on my first campaign in 1964 while I was a student at Keene Junior High. I passed out Barry Goldwater bumper stickers across the western part of the state. Since then I’ve been involved with every presidential campaign, including Ronald Reagan’s 1980 and 1984 races, and worked on more state and county races than I can even remember.
NHJ: When people think of Keene and Cheshire County rock rib conservative is not the first thing to pop into one’s mind. How did you and your county committee do this cycle?
JB: There is no question that Cheshire County, particularly Keene, is a difficult part of the state for Republicans, but this year we were able to field a strong slate of candidates, open a Victory Office that made calls for candidates across the state, double the number of our State Rep seats and take a majority of Cheshire County offices.
NHJ: Some have mentioned that you’re more of a moderate. What do you tell committee members when ideology comes up?
JB: I think that’s a misconception caused by the area of the state that I live in. I’ve been surprised that some people assume that somebody is more moderate just because they live in Keene. Conservatives are a rare breed in Keene, but believe it or not, there are a few of us.
I’m a fiscal and social conservative who supports traditional marriage, lower taxes, limited government, and is pro-life. I’m also a gun owner and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.
NHJ: Do you support the Republican platform?
JB: Absolutely. In fact, when my husband considered running for office in 2008 and again last year, I made him sit down and read the entire platform before he made his decision. The platform we approved at this year’s convention is solidly conservative and a strong statement of our party’s values.
NHJ: How do you respond to the charge of being the handpicked candidate of the establishment?
JB: I’ve been a grassroots activist in this party for years. I’ve volunteered in Republican politics because I believe in what our party stands for, not because I want titles or to promote my own interests. As I have told people in my phone conversations over the past few weeks, I made up my mind to seek the chairmanship because I think I can make a significant contribution to our state party. That is the reason why I am running. If elected I am going to serve all Republicans including both new activists and longtime party stalwarts.
NHJ: What are your three top objectives if you were to become Chair?
JB: The first objective is to maintain a strong relationship with our conservative grassroots community. If we don’t have people who want to be Republicans and want to vote for Republican candidates, it doesn’t matter what the State Committee does. Second, we need to raise the resources needed to hire staff, support our candidates and compete with Ray Buckley’s special interest money machine. Third, we need to promote a message that focuses on conservative values and our support for lower taxes, less spending and limited government.
NHJ: NH GOP has had a strong tradition of excellent female chairs; Nancy Sununu, Donna Sytek, Elise Vartanian, Rhoda Charbonneau, Jayne Millerick to name a few. Those are tough acts to follow. Do you have a role model in business or politics that you strive to emulate that might give some prospective supporters a snapshot of your leadership style?
JB: There are many people in NH politics that I have admired during my years as a Republican activists. One specific leader is former State Party Chairman Steve Duprey. He was an outstanding fundraiser, a strong leader, a team player willing to share ideas and was able to do it all with warmth, charm and a sense of humor. He set a high bar for future chairman to meet.
NHJ: Finally as many know this is really a person to person campaign with only 493 voters, how has the campaign been so far?
JB: It’s been a great experience. I’ve had an opportunity to talk Republicans from across the state and discuss their ideas for the party. I am encouraged by the response I’ve been getting and am extremely confident in my chance.
NHJ: Explain where you’ve been, what type of response you’ve gotten, any surprises?
JB: I’ve actually been on the telephone for most of the campaign. I am speaking to House Republican Alliance next week and have upcoming forums in Belknap and Sullivan Counties. I am also attending meetings in Rockingham County and in Nashua. The response has been overwhelmingly encouraging thus far.
NHJ: What do you think your vote count is up to?
JB: I’m not going to give you the exact number, but I’m ahead of where I had hoped to be at this stage in the race. I’ve already rolled out strong lists of supporters and will do so again in the near future.
NHJ: Thanks again for your time. Any last thoughts you’d like to leave with our readers?
JB: Our State Committee is stronger now that it’s been at any point in recent memory. I’m running because I want to continue the progress we have made over the last two years to ensure that we take back the corner office in 2012 and have lasting conservative majorities in the Legislature. And if any of your readers are voting members of the State Committee I’d like to ask for their support on January 22 in Derry. They should feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if they have any questions.