Gales Ferry college student captures state House seat

Joseph Stallcop at the New Hampshire State House on Dec. 7 during his inauguration. (photo submitted)
Joseph Stallcop at the New Hampshire State House on Dec. 7 during his inauguration. (photo submitted)

While his fellow students at Keene State College were finishing their final research papers and studying for exams on Dec. 7, Joseph Stallcop, Class of 2018, was at the New Hampshire State House, being inaugurated as a state representative.

“I had to tell teachers in advance and turn papers in early,” Stallcop, 20, said in a phone interview the day after he took the oath alongside 399 other state representatives. “There were some little moments of sleep deprivation.”

A native of Ledyard who attended Saint Bernard School in Uncasville in middle and high school, Stallcop was inspired to run for the legislature by a former representative and alumnus of Keene State who came to the college to speak about civic involvement at the end of last semester.

That alumnus, William Pearson, was leaving his seat in Cheshire House District 5 in the city of Keene, and explained that a Keene State student might be a perfect fit, since the campus of Keene State was within the district.

Stallcop approached him after the lecture to talk about the process and to see if he’d be the right fit.

A political science major with a minor in addictions, Stallcop volunteers around campus, and with the overflow homeless shelter in the city, in addition to working part time jobs.

“We recognized I had the availability and the passion to really get involved,” he said.

He declared his candidacy in June and watched the list to see who might oppose him in the general election or a primary.

In the past, he said, people associated with the Free State Project, a libertarian-leaning movement, have mounted primary challenges for his seat.

However, when the deadline came a week later, he was startled to find he was running unopposed. He went on to receive more votes than the presidential candidates in his district.

“I was expecting this to be an uphill battle,” he said.

Informed by his academic work and his volunteer experience, his first two legislative priorities will be the opioid crisis, which has hit the state of New Hampshire hard, as well as advocating for the city’s homeless population.

It’s important to “look beyond” addiction as a moral failing, and even sometimes genetics to see the social conditions that contribute, he said.

Stallcop said he became passionate about human rights and justice during his sophomore year at Keene State when he became involved in a number of campus organizations.

During Thanksgiving break, he got together with about dozen other Keene State students and gathered up winter supplies and drove to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation to supply the tribes there protesting the Dakota Access pipeline.

He’s also eager to co-sponsor legislation that would make illegal discrimination against a person because of their gender identity. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that lacks these protections.

“If you’re transgender in the state of New Hampshire, you can’t file any discrimination suit for being kicked out of an apartment or being fired from your job … it’s completely messed up,” he said.

His relative youth doesn’t worry him either, he said – in meeting other representatives during the inauguration, many have even less experience than he does, which was enough to “calm his nerves,” he said. He’s not even the youngest state representative in New Hampshire’s 400-seat House of Representatives – an 18-year-old was inaugurated the same day.

He plans on commuting to the state House from Concord on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when he doesn’t have class.

While New Hampshire’s House of Representatives is often criticized for being overcrowded, Stallcop said it gave him a chance to make his voice heard.

“If you believe enough in what you do and speak well, you still get your ideas out there,” he said. “I really wouldn’t have it any other way … if I lived in Massachusetts, in Boston, I could not imagine myself jumping in and saying, ‘I’m going to be a representative.’”

n.lynch@theday.com

Joseph Stallcop went to the  Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota in November with 12 other students to resupply protestors of the Dakota Access pipeline. (photo submitted)
Joseph Stallcop went to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota in November with 12 other students to resupply protestors of the Dakota Access pipeline. (photo submitted)

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