Clintons? Ford? Reagan? He’s Known ’em All
LEOMINSTER -- Lou D’Allesandro might chafe at being called a kingmaker, but when presidential candidates prepare to visit New Hampshire, which is the nation’s first presidential primary, he is usually sought out for their endorsement.
And it all started with a profile done by Washington Post reporter Mark Leibovich in 2003 headlined “Moving Lou.”
“Who could have believed it, but people did believe it,” said D’Allesandro while talking Friday to a group of Leominster High School students taking the advanced placement U.S. Government class taught by Larissa Murphy.
As a real-life example of his role in New Hampshire politics and national influence, D’Allesandro told the students that the day before he got a call from South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is considering running to represent the Democratic Party in the 2020 presidential election.
“And we’re meeting tonight at 5 p.m.,” said D’Allesandro with a warm smile perfected by nearly three decades of holding elected office, including 22 years as one of New Hampshire’s 24 state senators.
In fact, he has had personal relationships, Republican and Democrat, with presidential candidates since the 1970s.
When asked by one of the students who was his favorite of all of hundreds of candidates he has met over the years, surprisingly the Democrat, who switched parties in 1985, said it was Republican President Gerald Ford.
“He’s on the top. He was a great, down-to-earth guy,” said D’Allesandro.
He also praised former President Bill Clinton, who he described as having plenty of charisma and “did some very good things for the country.”
D’Allesandro also spoke to the influence wives can have on their husband’s political aspirations.
Nancy Reagan, wife of the former President Ronald Reagan, was tough because she all to often tried to insulate her husband from the outside world.
But, he said, it was done out of love.
D’Allesandro said former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom he endorsed in her run against former President Barack Obama during the Granite State’s primary in 2008, was not an asset to Bill Clinton.
He said Hillary Clinton liked to operate independently of her husband when he was in office.
When asked by another student what was the most important wisdom he offers candidates, he quickly said, “they (the voters) have to like you, and trust you.”
But it’s the small things that can make the most difference in the perception a voter can have of a candidate.
D’Allesandro spoke of meeting Obama and asking if the first African-American president could write a note to his grandson. He said Obama finished meeting and greeting everyone and then circling back to D’Allesandro and pulling out a pen and writing the requested note.
“Taking that time makes it meaningful and it doesn’t cost a penny,” he said.
When asked who he thought might become the Democratic Party’s nominee for the 2020 election, he didn’t show his hand other than to say there is a great field of candidates and rhetorically ask “if it’s time for a woman to be president,” adding that making an endorsement for the primary is going to be “very tough.”
D’Allesandro also urged the students become involved.
“You have to get involved to make a difference. The country is moving in a wobbly direction, so you have to get involved,” he said.
D’Allesandro was invited to the high school on Friday by Leominster City Councilor, attorney, historian and author Mark Bodanza, who D’Allesandro sought out to tell his life’s story.
The book Bodanza penned, after dozens of interviews, is titled “Lou D’Allesandro: Lion of the New Hampshire Senate and Thoughts for Presidential Hopefuls.”
Two students came away from their time listening to D’Allesandro inspired.
“He seems to do what he thinks is right instead of what a person wants to hear. It gives me some faith in politics,” said Helen Cohen, a senior taking the class.
Eric Jenny, also a senior, said he was impressed by D’Allesandro’s moral compass.
“He offered us a lot of wisdom,” said Jenny.