The story that many people from New Hampshire have heard about U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter ’74, ‘79G is that she was a reluctant candidate.
Consider that no longer relevant. In November, Shea-Porter defeated Republican incumbent Frank Guinta to secure her fourth term in Congress and again represent New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District. That they haven’t been consecutive terms is testimony to the fact that she has been anything but reluctant.
In 2006, Shea-Porter, who grew up in Durham and Lee, defeated Republican incumbent Jeb Bradley to become the first woman from New Hampshire to be elected to Congress. It was a first for her as well—she had never run for office before.
Two years later, Bradley sought to regain his seat, but Shea-Porter beat him again. Then, in 2010, her bid for a third term was halted by Guinta, the former mayor of Manchester, whom she would go on to upset in 2012 but would lose to in a rematch in 2014. November 2016 brought the pair’s fourth face-off, which Shea-Porter, the former social worker turned seasoned politician, won, and “reluctant” was solidly replaced with “determined.”
Shea-Porter’s passion for helping others dates back to the early years when, after earning a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s of public administration, she worked first as a social worker in Washington D.C. and then at senior centers in New Orleans and Maryland. While living in Maryland, she led an effort to bring affordable housing to her community and helped create a social service agency that served the local homeless and poor.
Shea-Porter also taught politics and history at a local community college. She and her husband, Gene, moved back to New Hampshire in 2001, and she began working on political campaigns, becoming chair of Rochester’s Democratic Committee. But it was after spending a month volunteering in shelters in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina that she decided to run for office. “Where is the government?” she remembers thinking. “There is no place for these people to turn.”
In 2006, and now, she became that place for the people of the 1st Congressional District of New Hampshire.
Originally published in UNH Magazine Spring 2017 Issue