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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Gienko '01 campaigns at residences, dump

Sunday mornings at the town dump?

While the dump is hardly a traditional spot where most students spend their weekends, visiting both the Lebanon and Lyme dump sites has become a weekly ritual for Bob Gienko '01 in his campaign for a seat in the New Hampshire state legislature.

Since residents have to dispose of their trash, and the two local dumps are only open on weekends, Gienko said he has found his visits to be a highly effective venue for increasing his visibility and meeting constituents.

But 8 a.m. trips to the dump are just one aspect of the exhaustive campaign that Gienko has been running since the beginning of September for one of four seats from the Hanover-Lyme district in the N.H. House of Representatives.

The cornerstone of his campaign has been walking door-to-door to every house in the district. Thus far, Gienko estimates he has hit 1,000 homes and has almost that many still left to visit.

His strategy is simple -- Gienko introduces himself, discusses his stances on issues and answers questions. If residents are not home, he signs a piece of literature with a personal note and leaves it on the doorstep.

"Each door is an opportunity," he said. "People appreciate when you come to their doors and talk to them."

Because he feels personal contact is so crucial to his campaign, Gienko said he has been allotting four to five hours every day, and longer on weekends, to the walking tour.

Of the 10 residents surveyed by The Dartmouth, two had met Gienko. One of those residents, who requested that her name not be printed, said she was "amazed" at his ambition.

In addition to speaking with constituents, Gienko has also shared his political agenda with various organizations, including the Sierra Club, the New Hampshire School Board Association and the New Hampshire Medical Board.

Additionally, he has posted numerous signs at main intersections, attended local athletic events and organized two mailings to go out before the election to further increase his visibility in the community.

With one week to go, Gienko will be busy waving signs during rush hour traffic, making phone calls and walking for many more hours of door-to-door visits.

"I'm running probably the most active campaign this district has seen in years," Gienko said.

But campaigns cost money, and Gienko is funding his without political action committee donations. He has managed to raise $2,000 through individual contributions and has also spent some of his own money.

"I made a pledge not to take money from Republican committees," said Gienko, a supporter of campaign finance reform. "I have had to return checks."

Despite the high campaign costs, the position of state legislator only pays $100 a year.

Gienko said education has become the dominant issue of the election, and, therefore, of his campaign as well.

He advocates a targeted aid plan in which property taxes would be set at a statewide uniform rate, and the money generated would stay in the local area to pay for education. Districts that do not collect enough money through their property taxes would be eligible for state aid.

"The key is fair assessment to figure out [which districts] can pay," Gienko said. "Everyone deserves a good education."

Gienko said his greatest challenge will be getting past the Democratic barrier. No Republican has been elected to represent the Grafton county district in 26 years.

"It's an incredibly uphill battle," he said.

However, Gienko favors a bipartisan approach to politics.

"I'm not going to push a partisan agenda," he said. "If I think it's in the best interest of New Hampshire, I'm going to support it."

At 21 and originally from Illinois, Gienko has also had to overcome criticism of his age and his relatively short residency in New Hampshire.

Gienko defends himself, though, by pointing out that his youth, energy and idealism can be positive assets, too.

"I'm a fresh face with some fresh ideas," he said. "The beauty of New Hampshire's legislature is it's supposed to represent all people."

Despite the barriers he has faced, Gienko said he believes that if 500 Dartmouth students were to vote for him, he would be able to win the election. He claims the sheer numbers of the student body could easily sway an election if the students chose to take advantage of their voting opportunity.

According to Gienko, the student population at Dartmouth has netted the district two extra seats, yet the students receive no representation.

For students who have not already registered for absentee ballots, they can register the day of the election with their Dartmouth ID as proof of residency. Gienko said he plans to offer transportation to the polls at Hanover High School all day long.

Gienko has received the endorsement of Senator John McCain, whose campaign Gienko joined.

"I have such a tremendous amount of respect for him," Gienko said. "Being endorsed by him is probably one of the biggest honors I've ever had."

"I applaud you for your service and dedication to your community," wrote McCain in a letter to Gienko. "I encourage all voters in the 10th district to embrace your ideas and vote for you in November."

Gienko was inspired by McCain's example, but he has learned it takes a tough skin to campaign.

"It's a very humbling experience to ask people to vote for you, to open yourself to attacks," he said. "But it is very exciting. I have met some wonderful, wonderful people."

In order to campaign for the state office, Gienko has taken the Fall term off, and as a result, he will enroll at Dartmouth for a fifth year. If elected, he will take Winter term off as well and finish his last three terms before the summer of 2002.

If he doesn't win the election, Gienko plans to take classes in the winter and possibly add a third major, in addition to economics and history. And he would definitely run again at some point in the future.

Any of his future campaigns would also be in New Hampshire, as Gienko said he plans to stay in the state, even after graduation.