Victoria Xiao '22 suspends campaign for NH state legislature

by Coalter Palmer | 7/31/20 2:00am

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Source: Courtesy of Victoria Xiao '22

Victoria Xiao ’22 has suspended her campaign for one of the four New Hampshire House of Representatives seats in Hanover’s district. 

Xiao, who had been one of two students in a field of nine running in the Democratic primary, wrote in an email statement that she made the decision following a conversation with a former New Hampshire state representative, whom she declined to name.

“I had an almost two-hour phone call with an ex-state representative who is similar to me in personality — “intense” and analytical — and constant self-censorship and frustration resulted in biweekly migraines for her,” Xiao wrote. “I don’t have enough confidence in myself that I will be able to deal with what she went through better, and if I can’t deal with it better, I don’t think I can be the change I want to see in the first place, either.”

While she was campaigning, Xiao wrote that she came to feel that there was "something about power that is inherently objectifying and manipulating.”

“I don’t want to put myself in an environment like that and form habits of inauthenticity in my formative years,” Xiao wrote.

She noted that she had other personal reasons for her decision to drop her campaign, but declined to comment further on these reasons. 

Xiao’s campaign website — which has since been taken offline — included statements of support for drug abuse treatment, state action on climate change, a passenger railroad system, as well as a paragraph entitled “Defense of Liberty” in which Xiao spoke out “against all forms of ideological suppression, partisan dogma, and groupthink.”

Jonathan Nicastro ’23, a researcher for Xiao’s campaign and a personal friend, said he is supportive of Xiao’s decision and “respect[s] her convictions,” but added that from a political perspective, he was “a little disappointed.” 

As an example of a local issue important to him, Nicastro listed the problem of rising property taxes in Hanover, which he in part attributed to property assessors “participating in rent-seeking,” adding that he thought Xiao had done a particularly good job speaking to this concern. 

On Twitter and other social media platforms, Xiao has faced criticism for both her platform and her comments. In a June 17 tweet that has since been deleted, Riley Gordon ’22 — the other Dartmouth student running — questioned her decision to run in the Democratic primary, posting a screenshot of Xiao’s Twitter bio in which she called herself a “conservative-libertarian” and bringing up her affiliation with the student-run conservative newspaper The Dartmouth Review. In the same post, Gordon criticized Xiao’s previous statement that she was “running to clarify [her own] values.”

“Running a right-wing newspaper contributor in the Graf-12 Democratic primary to split the student vote? Thank you Republicans, very cool! I’m not running to “clarify my values” — I know my values, & I’m running to fight for them in Concord,” read the tweet.

Gordon did not respond to a request for comment. 

In a July 8 tweet, New Hampshire State Representative Kris Schultz (D-Concord) also questioned the legitimacy of Xiao’s affiliation with the Democratic party, criticizing Xiao’s agenda by calling it “the bare minimum” and writing “I hope you lose big.” In a separate tweet sent out the following day, Schultz called Xiao’s views “Orwellian.”

On her website’s Frequently Asked Questions page, Xiao responded to the question of whether she was running as a Democrat for “strategic purposes” by stating that she “believe[d] that the Democratic Party has an opportunity to bring about change, unite the country through open dialogue and national reflection, and enhance government accountability.” Xiao also argued against “political boxes, party-sorting, or group identity.” 

In response to criticism about Xiao’s party identification, Nicastro said that, from a historical perspective, he didn’t think being a conservative or libertarian was incompatible with being a Democrat. 

David Yin ’22, who supported Xiao and is also a member of the Dartmouth Libertarians, added that Xiao had been a registered Democrat prior to her candidacy and had worked on Andrew Yang’s primary campaign.

Although Ian Reinke ’22 said he’d likely be voting for Gordon, he added that he still felt  disappointed that the field of candidates would be losing a student.

“I personally think it’s unfortunate, because I think that her running — even if I don’t agree with her on a lot of things — is another student voice in the race and I think that’s important to have.”