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Next State Rep? This One Wears Braces

18-year-old Extension School student runs for New Hampshire legislature

Eighteen-year-old Democrat Alexander J. Gallichon—an Extension School student working toward a degree in 2010—is hoping to become the youngest state representative in New Hampshire’s history in next Tuesday’s election.

Gallichon, who graduated from Nashua High School South in Nashua, N.H., last May, started a consulting business, and, fittingly, began taking government classes at Harvard this fall.

If elected, he says he would remain enrolled in the Extension School while representing wards 5, 8, and 9, roughly the southern portion of Nashua.

Gallichon says he decided to run for public office even before he reached voting age.

“I’ve encountered a lot of state regulations here in New Hampshire, especially while I was in high school and started my small business,” he says.

Of his company, Global Techlogistix, Gallichon says, “I’ve been focusing on infrastructure and procurement in third world countries—most recently Haiti.”

Gallichon uses an array of methods to campaign, including a campaign blog, a facebook.com group, and old-fashioned door-to-door canvassing. Despite a link for donations on his campaign Web site, Gallichon says that most of his funding has come from family and friends.

STUDENT SENATOR TO STATE REP

Sporting braces and Harry Potter-style glasses, Gallichon says that reactions from his constituents have been “mostly positive,” with more people questioning him about his commute than about his age. As he lives at home in Nashua, the former should not be a problem.

Gallichon sees his status as a student comparable to other representatives’ outside jobs. State representatives make $200 plus transportation costs per term, and District 26 incumbents are listed as real estate brokers and salesmen, among other occupations.

Political issues that the 18-year-old highlights in his campaign include universal access to affordable healthcare, a clearer definition of and better funding for public education, and making New Hampshire more business- and investment-friendly.

Mary Ellen Martin, a Democratic incumbent who has represented Nashua for 16 years, differentiated Gallichon from other students who have viewed public office as a résumé-booster.

She says that he is “really into the political scene. That needs to be encouraged because some young people are wasting their lives in endless pursuits like MTV and video games.”

Gallichon’s prior political experience consists of a two-term stint as a student senator at his public high school. His main accomplishment was fighting spending, casting a lone vote against the principal’s use of discretionary funds to buy microwaves for the school cafeteria, he says.

Garrett G. D. Nelson ’09 attended Nashua High School with Gallichon, whom he described as having a “wonkish” knowledge of state and local politics.

Gallichon tried unsuccessfully to convince Nelson to run for state representative when the latter turned 18 just before the 2004 elections.

“He was going to be my Karl Rove,” says Nelson, who is also a Crimson editor.

THE YOUNGEST OF MANY

If elected, Gallichon would be the youngest representative in New Hampshire’s history, but he would not be the first college student to serve. Republican Eugene W. Kelly, Jr. was elected as a state representative for Nashua in 2004, when he was a junior at Colby-Sawyer College, but he may not serve as a role model for aspiring politicos. According to the voting record on the House of Representative’s Web site, Kelly only participated in 36 out of 130 possible votes.

A young representative with a much cleaner voting record, Democrat Scott A. Merrick, 21, is a senior at Tufts University majoring in political science. He was first elected to the New Hampshire House at the age of 19, has served one term as a representative for Coos County District 2, and is running for reelection next Tuesday.

Merrick says he sees Gallichon’s youth as a potential political asset.

“Alex would understand from a different perspective the challenges public schools face,” he says.

Entering the House as a teenager, Merrick says he was impressed by the respect given to him by older representatives. He took sophomore fall off to focus on his political duties, but he has since re-enrolled as a full-time student.

“Right now with the election, I think I fell a little behind, but my professors have been fairly understanding,” he says. “If anything gets cut, it tends to be my social life more than anything else.”

Youthful candidates are becoming relatively common in New Hampshire, with two other Democrats, Andrew Edwards, a student at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Jeffrey P. Fontas, a student at Northeastern University running for office in Nashua as well. Both are 19 and both attended Nashua High School with Gallichon and Nelson.

Edwards, like Gallichon, is running to represent District 26, a hotly contested area with 10 seats and 10 candidates from each party.

At 400 members, the New Hampshire House of Representatives is the third-largest parliament in the English-speaking world, beaten out only by the U.S. Congress and the British Parliament, its Web site boasts.

Nelson is more skeptical of Edwards and Fontas’ candidacies, saying that because they do not live full-time in Nashua they may be more likely to be “vanity candidates.” In contrast, Nelson says that if Gallichon were elected, he would “definitely be among the most knowledgeable and energetic members of the New Hampshire House.”
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