Hillary draws more than 1,000 people, and a pony, to Concord book signing
By DAVE SOLOMON State House Bureau
Vermin Supreme pays for parking ahead of the arrival of ponies across the street from a Hilary Clinton book signing in Concord Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
CONCORD — More than 1,000 Hillary Clinton fans crowded the South Main Street sidewalk in front of Gibson's Bookstore Tuesday morning in a line that snaked around the block and through the store.
They waited patiently in a soft wintry rain, some for hours, to meet the former first lady, U.S. senator, secretary of state and presidential nominee.
Tickets to the event were $30, which included admission to the book signing and a signed copy of "What Happened." The book's cover price is $30, although some large retailers have priced it as low as $17. Most people walked through the line with no book in hand to exchange greetings with Clinton and picked up their signed copy on the way out.
"We've got to keep fighting, don't we," she said to one fan, who expressed disappointment at the outcome of the 2016 presidential race.
After two presidential campaigns with her husband, and two on her own, Clinton has made many friends in New Hampshire over the years.
"It's great being back. I love coming to New Hampshire and the friends I've made over 25 years now," she said. "So any chance I have to come back, I'm anxious to take it."
The media covering the event were warned that Clinton would not make any statement or host a news conference, but she did share some thoughts on former state senator and Democratic Party icon Mary Louise Hancock, who died Monday.
"I was privileged to know her as a friend," said Clinton. "You always knew you were in the presence of someone very special. She was always trying to make a difference to make life better for people."
The advance publicity for the event also warned that Clinton would not be personalizing any of the signatures, but she made a few exceptions.
Kara Rodenhizer of Portsmouth came with her young son, Aiden, and left with a personalized and autographed copy of an earlier Clinton book, "It Takes A Village." It didn't hurt that Aiden has the same name as Clinton's grandson, although his name is spelled Aidan.
Also playing the name game were three generations of the Begin family from Concord, with Diane Begin, her daughter Chelsea and her granddaughter.
"I share a birthday with Hillary and this is my daughter, Chelsea," said Begin. She and her husband had two names in mind before their daughter, now in her 30s, was born. "The two names we had chosen were Hillary and Chelsea — swear to God — and we didn't even know who Hillary Clinton was at the time. It was purely by coincidence."
The family support for Clinton goes beyond coincidence, however, as both women supported her candidacy.
"I have for a long time," said Begin. "I did foster care way back when, and she was a big advocate for that."
And across the street…
Clinton critics were also on hand for the event, but protesters were kept to a tightly controlled area across the street, where perennial presidential candidate and self-described performance artist Vermin Supreme held court with a live pony he brought for the occasion.
The presence of the pony, which Supreme has used at other events, served as a symbol for the supporters of ideas like universal health care and tuition-free college proposed by Clinton's primary opponent Bernie Sanders.
In her book, Clinton referred to his call for such programs as a "Universal Basic Pony," and posed the question, "Who is going to pay for the pony?"
Keith Yergeau, one of the leaders of the protest, characterized the group this way: "About half the people here are members of the Free State Project, others are Bernie supporters, Vermin Supreme and some other leftists who may not support Bernie either."
Supreme was at first denied permission to bring the pony to the event, but the city of Concord relented after attorney Marc Randazza, with offices in Gloucester, Mass., intervened, claiming Supreme's First Amendment rights were being violated.
Clinton hosted a reception for Democratic VIPs before the book-signing, which got underway at 1 p.m. and continued well into the afternoon.