Jessica Lubien, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom from Manchester, was intrigued by the mailing she received this spring from the “No Labels” organization, encouraging her to get involved in the five-year-old effort to find non-partisan solutions to the nation’s most pressing problems.
“I got on the computer right away to check it out,” she recalls. “I responded online and within 10 minutes I got a phone call. As an independent voter, the message really resonated with me. I got very excited and knew at that point I was going to be very involved.”
In the ensuing weeks, she attended campaign events in New Hampshire for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sporting the bright green “No Labels Problem Solver” T-shirt, Lubien and like-minded voters have been pressing the candidates to adopt the No Labels agenda and attend the organization’s national convention in Manchester, scheduled for Oct. 12.
On Thursday, she and about two dozen other No Labels volunteers in the Granite State got to meet the honorary co-chairs of the movement, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who were in New Hampshire to energize supporters and spread the word on the eve of their signature event.
Steve Marchand, former mayor of Portsmouth and now a public affairs consultant, is one of the group’s New Hampshire organizers.
“In the past year, we’ve really focused on New Hampshire for obvious reasons,” he said, alluding to the first-in-the-nation primary. “It’s a place where you can take advantage of the national stage to talk to the presidential candidates and begin to turn the tide from rewarding polarization to rewarding collaboration.”
First-term Republican State Rep. Terry Wolf of Bedford, another organizer at the Backroom event, said Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate on CNN with its focus on personality further cemented her commitment to the No Labels approach.
“It reminded me why I found the message so compelling,” she said. “I feel we should be focused on issues.”
Seeking the seal
That’s what Huntsman and Lieberman hope as well, as they travel the nation, propose legislation, write books, testify before Congress and otherwise lobby for candidates to take the No Labels pledge, which will earn them the Problem Solver Seal of Approval.
“Part of our mission is to get people to agree on goals that are stated in a way that crosses ideological lines,” said Lieberman in an interview earlier in the day with Union Leader editors and reporters.
Those goals, in no particular order, are to create 25 million new jobs over the next 10 years; make Social Security and Medicare solvent for another 75 years; make American energy independent by 2024; and balance the federal budget by 2030.
They weren’t plucked out of thin air, said Huntsman: “This isn’t our agenda. These are the issues that emerged from polling of the American people. There hasn’t been an election cycle in recent history when one of these four haven’t been at the top of the campaign.”
After embracing the agenda, candidates must promise that if elected, within 30 days they will launch a bipartisan initiative on at least one of the goals.
“We have three criteria for the seal,” Huntsman said. “Candidates must embrace the strategic agenda, promise that within 30 days they will start working with Congress to get one of the four done, and then use social media and their campaign apparatus to get the word out.”
Since 2011, No Labels has achieved some symbolic victories, like pushing for bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address. The organization was also key to the passage of the “No Budget No Pay Act” of 2013, and is now pushing the “Health Care for Heroes Act,” which would merge Pentagon and VA electronic records systems.
The No Labels caucus in Congress now includes approximately 100 lawmakers from both parties who can be seen sporting their “Problem Solver” pins as they negotiate the halls of the Capitol.
As the initiative gains momentum, its sponsors are pouring resources into New Hampshire in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
“The best opportunity to promote our message is on the ground in New Hampshire,” according to the No Labels Strategic Overview. “As such, we have made a substantial investment in building our community in this key swing state.”
The organization has 10 paid staffers and dozens of volunteers and interns working out of an office at 1802 Elm St., and has signed up Seacoast real estate developer Renee Plummer and former N.H. Chief Justice John Broderick as New Hampshire co-chairs.
“So far our Manchester field office has engaged with 50,000 undeclared voters, and that includes 200,000 phone calls,” said Ryan Clancy, a national spokesman for the group.
‘A powerful statement’
It all culminates on Oct. 12, with the first-ever National Problem Solvers Convention at the Radisson, where presidential candidates from both parties will have the opportunity to outline their platforms before more than 1,000 attendees.
“I think people will be rather impressed with the Republicans and Democrats who will be there,” Lieberman said. “It looks like we are going to have more than half the candidates from each party.”
No Labels has not yet named any of the candidates who have committed to attend, but plans to do so in the near future. The organization won’t be announcing the recipients of the Problem Solver Seal of Approval until early January, a month before the primary, in one big list.
“It will be a powerful statement about who wants to govern, and what priorities they want to embrace,” said Huntsman. – See more here