She's got it- smarts, a recognizeable name, and has more money than her opponent. Democratic and even some Republican strategists agree Katrina Swett is a formidable candidate for New Hampshire?s Second Congressional District. What Swett doesn?t have though, is a voting record. NHPR?s Dan Gorenstein recently spent some time with the candidate to get to know her policy positions and her.
Katrina Swett recently toured the Contoocook-based Yankee Book Peddlers for a little face-to-face campaigning.
6:35 Sfx: Katrina talking about Bookstore
Chatting with workers, the candidat spent nearly two minutes talking with one pregnant employee about expecting and baby names! The congressional candidate didn?t even mention running for office. Swett staffers say that?s Katrina, she?s interested in people?s lives.
Political common sense also says connecting to people on a personal level is a good way to get votes.
Regardless of the motivation Swett seems tireless on the campaign trail. She talks, she questions, and she smiles. Somehow, crammed between a visit to the Yankee Book Peddlers and stumping at Franklin Pierce Law Center, she still remembers to stop at the drug store to pick things up for the kids.
3:52 sfx: shopping
Swett says since she began campaigning, her husband Dick has picked up some of the domestic slack, but here she is at Rite Aid anyway.
:03 ?I still feel a primary sense of responsibility? I am more aware of the fact that 2 of the kids woke up this morning with sniffles, and the bottle of Dimetap is empty. You have to have a big bottle when you have a lot of kids. And they are more likely to say ?mom, I have run out of glue stick.??mom is sort of default button.
Swett features family photos in much of her campaign literature. Effectively encouraging public curiosity. But, at the same time, she?s protective, and resists interviews that include the family. Still the campaign finds the family image a good selling point. Like in this conversation at a Concord retirement home.
Swett is trying to balance her right to privacy with her desire that the state get to know Katrina. It?s a fine line. It doesn?t satisfy everyone. She?s happy to bend your ear on public policy. But refuses to discuss how or why, as a child of Jewish Holocaust survivors, she converted to the Church of Latter Day Saints- the Mormon Church.
Ironically, it?s through discussing policy that one learns about Katrina Swett the candidate.
2:48 ?I would hope to become associated with and become one fo the most outspoken and I hope eloquent voices speaking out for hr, and US leadership? Which is very near and dear to my heart. I think the US must remain a leader in the fight for hr worldwide.
Swett comes by her passion for human rights honestly.
:21 I grew up in a family where there was an awareness of the need for the world not to turn its back on people who are suffering in remote parts of the world?2:08 perhaps it is attributable to my parents, having suffered through great injustice. They had no tolerance for injustice.
Human rights came alive for Swett as a young woman. Her mother had read a report on Raul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat credited with saving Jews from death camps in World War II. The article suggested this hero was still alive in a Soviet prison. Swett says her mother became absolutely galvanized to organize a free Wallenberg Committee.
3:40 I was sort of her staff person, I was in law school at the time, I would research things for her?organization, stuff like that. Write letters, place ads in newspapers, just a daughter helping her mom, in what had become a mission in my mother?s life
It didn?t hurt that Wallenberg had helped save her parents lives during the war.
Later when her husband, former Democratic Representative Dick Swett became US Ambassador to Denmark, Swett learned of the illegal trafficking of women.
5:28 ? I think in terms of the perception of people in Denmark, they would have said, and I think it would have been accurate, Mrs. Swett was very actively invovlved in pushing the Danes in a cooperative way to take a closer look at the problem. And to try to bring law enforcement, and justice dept, more fully into combating what everybody acknowledged was a terrible situation, but had been somewhat ignored.
Swett says she saw concrete results, quickly.
4:12 ? The Minister of Justice, who would be the equivalent of our AG, following these initiatives by the US Embassy, to put out a directive saying this is going to be a higher priority. ? We saw local chiefs of police taking their cue, saying we are going to institute a new policy. ?
But what makes this woman proud?the candidate who hopes to be one of the strongest and most eloquent voices on the rights of fellow humans?
5:10 I can tell you one of my proudest moments in terms of hr, and it doesn?t relate to me as much as it does to my daughter Chelsea. She wrote a very beautiful letter to Wallenberg, thanking him for what he had done for her grandparents, and making her life possible by saving them. It was selected, when they opened the Holocaust museum in DC?that letter was selected to be a part of a play they did called ?remember the children,? which was dedicated ot the children who had lost their lives in the holocaust.
It was a moment, Swett recalls, of witnessing the passing of a family torch. From grandparents to grandchildren. Swett seems so very proud of her children. But expectations are equally high. This is a mother who, boasts about lecturing her kids to befriend the friendless.
She confesses that two quotations inspire her daily life. One comes from the Old Testament. The other comes from her favorite book.
10:58 ? I am not going to remember it off the top of my head is from my favorite single book which is to Kill A Mockingbird. We named our son Atticus after the main character. There is a conversation that Atticus is having with his daughter Scott, and she says something to the effect of ?Well, Atticus, you know everybody thinks your wrong, doesn?t that matter to you?? (fade here) And he says, ? you know, of course they are entitled to their opinion, that?s their priveledge. But a person?s conscious is not subject ot public opinion, that is one thing that is not subject to public opinion. And you don?t have to answer to majority for your conscious?he says it much better, I?d love to get the actual quote?but that is another quote I always have in the back of my mind. (fade this down)
TAPE sfx: ?To Kill A Mockingbird?
Maybe Swett?s commitment to the meaning behind the fictional conversation is Swett at her finest- earnest and passionate on justice. Her personal history suggests some consistency. She is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She named her son after a literary figure who represents an unflinching pledge to doing the right thing. She is completing a PhD dissertation on how US foreign policy influences international human rights.
But she is also trying to be a politician.
3:50 hr can be trumped by other considerations. It is often trumped by other considerations in US foreign policy. But at the very least we have an obligation to shed that bright spotlight of disclosure on hr abuses and violations when they occur. At the very least, we have a duty to the victims to speak out about the injustices they are suffereing?
While Swett may sometimes sound like a non-profit human rights activist, her language is not always consistent with her policy positions. Shedding the spotlight and speaking out for victims doesn?t necessarily mean Swett wants to take on brutal regimes. Swett?s human rights policy is more pragmatic.
6:15 We want to exert our good influence, and our good offices, and our pressure at times to try to get our allys and friends to more fully respect hr, so I think we can an influence in that regard?it?s in our own national self interest to try to promote hr, to promote civil rights in those countries we do business with.
It?s not quite the stuff of Atticus Fitch. But maybe it doesn?t have to be. For NHPR News, I?m DG.