MANCHESTER - New Hampshire Democrats geared up for a heated campaign season with a rally Saturday during the state Democratic Party convention.
Gov. Maggie Hassan, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster are all up for reelection in November.
All four women called upon the hundreds of party loyalists who nearly filled the auditorium at Manchester Memorial High School to be active throughout the campaign, from the primaries until Election Day on Nov. 4.
"In the last year and a half, we've put our state back on the right track. But we can't let up now, and we have more work to do," said Hassan, whose remarks were interrupted often by applause and cheering.
Hassan was the first of the four to speak and warned the friendly audience that Republicans would be charging hard in every race, both nationally and within the state.
"We'll stop them as long as we remain committed to the core principle that unites us as Democrats and as Granite Staters. We believe simply this - that everybody counts," Hassan said. "My fellow Democrats, we can't turn back now. Let's keep New Hampshire moving in the right direction."
Shaheen, the former governor running for a second term in the Senate, is already locked in a heated battle even though officially her Republican challenger has yet to be decided.
Scott Brown, who represented Massachusetts for a partial term in the Senate before losing to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in 2012, has received several major endorsements since his move to New Hampshire, including from U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican who holds the state's other Senate seat.
Shaheen's only reference to Brown on Saturday was a one-liner about borrowing a joke made by daughter Stefany Shaheen, a co-chairman at the convention, about Brown's days as a model as she introduced her mother. But Shaheen did come right out about a topic Brown has brought up repeatedly in the opening months of his New Hampshire campaign.
"My opponents would repeal the Affordable Care Act, but they don't have an alternative," Shaheen said. "Now I know we've got to keep working to make the Affordable Care Act better. That's what I plan to do. But we are not going back to those days when health insurance companies decided what kind of health care we could get."
Shaheen also called out for New Hampshire House Speaker Terie Norelli to stand from her seat at the back of the auditorium for a loud ovation. Norelli, in her ninth term representing Portsmouth, is not seeking reelection.
Shea-Porter is trying to hang on to the 1st Congressional District seat she won back from Frank Guinta in 2012, two years after he unseated her. She said Democrats need to continue fighting for the middle class.
"Our agenda includes everybody," she said.
Kuster, elected to represent New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District in 2012, ended her remarks with an urge for party mobilization as Republicans and Tea Party candidates vie for seats while targeting Democrats and the leadership of the Obama Administration.
"Despite the partisan gridlock that cripples Washington D.C., it's clear we can make progress, but we still have much left to do," she said. "This year's election offers all Granite Staters a critical choice. We can build on the progress that we're making ... or we can allow the Tea Party to continue their 'just say no' approach."