New Hampshire Gubernatorial Incumbent Maggie Hassan on the Record | NECN
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New Hampshire Gubernatorial Incumbent Maggie Hassan on the Record

Democrat Maggie Hassan says she's inspired to run for office again because of her son Ben

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    Democrat Maggie Hassan says she's inspired to run for office again because of her son Ben (Published Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014)

    In the race for governor in New Hampshire, Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan never really aspired to lead an entire state.

    In fact, for a while, she wasn't even the most recognized leader in her household. But because of her son, she has an organic political story that few know about.

    The Hassans were enjoying week-night Chinese take-out when NECN visited. On one side of the Moo Shu chicken was Tom Hassan, the principal of Phillips Exeter Academy, one of the nation's most prestigious high schools, which was founded in 1781 and claims famous alums ranging from Daniel Webster to Mark Zuckerberg.

    On the other side is Maggie Hassan, who just happens to be governor of New Hampshire.

    On this October night, Hassan is in the thick of a reelection campaign as her husband is in the process of stepping down as principal. Their daughter Meg, a senior at Brown University, is prepping for an interview for Teach for America.

    And then there's 26-year-old Ben, who has cerebral palsy.

    If you want to point to the source of Hassan's political ambition, her political existence, then it's her son.

    "I had a moment when he was 3. The school bus came to pick him up for the first day of pre-school, and it was a mainstream pre-school here in town ... And I found myself thinking, 'You know, he's going to school in his hometown and he's going to have a chance to make friends and a chance to learn,'" she said.

    She decided to pay it forward and become an advocate - and a career in public service was born.

    "The progression was pretty gradual, but then I went up to Concord to advocate for certain things and then I got put on a commission and the next thing you know, you're running for state senate," she said.

    "She called me and said 'We just can't do that. It's exciting, but given our home lives.' I just said, 'You'd be really good at it,' and I just knew Maggie had the passion to make a difference and I said go for it," her husband Tom said.

    "And he not only said you'd be really good at it, he said we'll make it work. We can do this," Hassan added.

    And they made it work. She lost her first race, but did not give up, eventually serving three terms as a state senator. Then, she lost again, but it was Ben's zest for life despite his handicap that compelled her not to quit.

    "In retrospect, I think it's one of the things that just gave me the confidence to know that there are worse things than losing," Hassan said.

    So she ran for governor and won, putting a whole new meaning to "power couple"

    "There's certainly stress and you have to learn to recognize it and deal with it," she said.

    Now, two years into this intense but somehow balanced life, Tom is stepping away from the academic dream job, optimistically excited to be a "first gentleman."

    According to Hassan, if she doesn't win, they both plan to find meaningful work, and she points to practicing law.

    "But I'm also working as hard as I can to win," she said.

    Hassan has led in the polls most of the campaign, but lately, the race has really tightened up. 

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