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EXCLUSIVE: Carlos Cardona, young progressive leader, kicks off bid for State Senate

EXCLUSIVE: Carlos Cardona, young progressive leader, kicks off bid for State Senate

Carlos Cardona, a rising star in New Hampshire progressive activism and national campaigns has annouced his bid for State Senate Tuesday. (Photo courtesy)

By Colin Booth

February 20, 2024

Carlos Cardona, a young, rising star in New Hampshire progressive activism and national campaigns is announcing his candidacy for State Senate in District 2 today.

Cardona, a 17-year resident of the district where he lives with his partner and two kids, has been a major force in local, statewide, and national politics, advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, improving public education, addressing the opioid crisis, and a proud advocate of his native Puerto Rico. His time spent as Chair of the Laconia Democratic Committee led to a Washington Post profile in 2019 that went in-depth on Cardona’s broad reach across political divides, which he’s betting will give him a boost in November in a district dominated by independent voters.

“I have Republican friends, Democrats, independents, and they all tell me the same thing, ‘I would never vote in any other year for a Democrat. But if you run I will vote for you.’ And I take that very seriously. A lot of these people are business owners. Some of them despise Democrats, but they know me, they know what I can accomplish and they know that I’m a man of my word, and I tell them exactly where I stand on issues,” Cardona said.

Cardona also recently served as national campaign manager for Marianne Williamson’s presidential campaign.

His platform focuses on key issues such as improving public education, addressing the opioid crisis, advocating for environmental sustainability, and supporting economic policies that benefit working families. With a proven track record of political mobilization and community organizing, Cardona aims to leverage his experience to foster bipartisan cooperation and effective governance.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said Cardona was a strong candidate for the district who would be an improvement over the current officeholder: “Carlos will put the people of the Lakes Region first. Folks deserve a state senator who will listen to their concerns and follow up.”

“Follow up” under the existing district leadership seems to be a concern for some, including Nathanial Gurien, a resident of the district living in Sandwich, a small business owner and Executive Director of the New Hampshire Cannabis Party, an organization with the goal of promoting the legalization of marijuana in the State of New Hampshire.

Gruien, an independent, said the current office holder for State Senate district 2, freshman State Senator Tim Lang, seemed like a proponent of legalization efforts before taking office, but has since embraced the NH GOP leadership’s strategy of kicking the can down the road on the issue.

“When he got elected, he became very aloof and distant… once he got elected, it was constantly postponing, not wanting to talk about it. It was like pulling teeth.”

“We have a very potent candidate in Carlos. I don’t expect that being elevated to the Senate is going to make him into an aloof individual and he’s still going to be very accessible and reasonable. Political opportunism is not Carlos’ guiding principle. And unfortunately it seems to be Tim (Lang’s),” Gruien said. 

RELATED: NH Senate Dems introduce bills to strengthen abortion rights

Lang has been at the forefront of some of the most divisive culture war fights happening in the state, being a vocal proponent on bills aimed at banning books from New Hampshire schools and prime sponsor of Senate Bill 341, a bill that would force schools to “out” students to their parents, among other anti-LGBTQ+ bills he has supported.

“He’s just a rubber stamp for the ultra-right that just doesn’t care about families and what’s happening in his community,” Cardona said about Lang.

Individuals in the State Legislature, who asked not to be named, have said Lang has had issues with his behavior among his fellow Senators, even those in his own caucus. They say he has also privately expressed his intention to run for Senate president next term, a role currently occupied by Senate President Jeb Bradley, who has not yet announced if he will again seek the role.

While Lang sets up his re-elect campaign, Cardona is poised to be a formidable contender in the upcoming election, able to tap a vast network of resources across local and national political networks built up over decades.

Cardona says his campaign has already garnered significant grassroots support, and he already has the support of one high-profile member of Congress — colloquially known as New Hampshire’s fifth member of our federal delegation, Congressman Ro Khanna of California’s 17th congressional district, who urged Cardona to run on social media late last week.

“Everyone in New Hampshire knows what a powerful progressive voice Carlos is on human rights and economic justice. He’s exactly the type of person we need to run for political office and I know he will work hard and deliver for the people of New Hampshire,” said Rep. Khanna.

Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy said she was excited about the prospect of a State Senate campaign on the scale of Cardona’s.

“I think Carlos will be a really dynamic candidate. Carlos has a huge network of supporters in the progressive realm, having been a very active Bernie supporter, most recently, having run Marianne Williamson’s campaign think he’s going to be a formidable fundraiser and a really formidable grassroots organizer, so we’re excited about his candidacy.” Soucy said.

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

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