What started as an exercise in civic engagement ended Tuesday night with Rick Kraft receiving the support of dozens of New Hampshire voters in the state’s Republican Presidential Primary.
With 100% of precincts reporting across 10 counties, the Associated Press reported that 117 people cast ballots for Kraft, a Roswell attorney, giving him 0.1% of the overall vote. By comparison, President Donald Trump received 129,696 votes, or 85.6% of the primary.
Kraft came in 10th in an 18-candidate Republican field, something that for most politicians, would feel like a defeat. Kraft though said he is proud of his final showing.
“For me, I think success is measured by expectations and what happened greatly exceeded my expectations,” he said Wednesday.
The final count was the culmination of a month’s long campaign, powered by social media, word of mouth, one that gained more fanfare and more attention than he imagined.
Kraft said that when he and his wife of 37 years were at home in Roswell Tuesday watching the results come in, he was unsure how he would fare.
“I knew people were reaching out, but I did not know how effective it would be,” Kraft recounted.
It was a night that he said he would never forget.
Kraft decided to file to run in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary a year after he and his wife visited the state, where he learned just how easy it was to become a candidate in the state’s Democratic or Republican presidential primaries.
All someone needs to do to be listed on the ballot in New Hampshire’s primary is pay a $1,000 filing fee and submit a statement of candidacy. Kraft did just that last November, at the time describing it as checking an item off his bucket list.
“I didn’t anticipate it being a big deal. I thought I would put my name in, I would be on the ballot and that would be it,” he said.
Soon after he filed, the novelty of an attorney and first-time candidate for office making a run for the White House caught the attention of media in New Mexico and throughout the nation.
Stories appeared in the Associated Press and USA Today with New Mexico television stations interviewing him about his effort. The number of likes and comments on Facebook that he received began to grow.
The level of support prompted him to start taking his campaign a little more seriously. He started a website. He also made the motto, “One Nation Under God” the heart of his campaign, a phrase that combined his call for civility and greater unity with his strong Christian faith.
“If we get the unity and civility back together and we can get back to biblical principles, I feel like our country would be in a position to have a greater impact and a greater blessing,” Kraft said.
Though he supports much of Trump’s agenda, he thinks the 45th president could go about implementing it in a better way.
“I believe there is a way to get things done in a manner where you don’t end up having to throw stones at each other,” Kraft said.
His bid though did receive some negative reaction locally. Some construed it as Kraft opposing Trump, something he said was not the point of his run.
“One of the funniest things someone said to me was, ‘Wait until Trump gives you a nickname,’” Kraft said.
Others asked him why people should vote for him in a primary contest he was unlikely to win. One day he received a letter from a woman criticizing him. He said he then responded by calling her.
“And I would say it is OK to have your opinion, I am not going to change it. I just want you to understand where I am coming from,” Kraft said.
Though he did not hit the campaign trail in earnest, Kraft said his bid for president did have an impact on people beyond Roswell.
A Los Angeles man had contacted Kraft and said that his son had eagerly been following Kraft’s campaign and watched closely as the results came in Tuesday night. He got an email from a student at the College of William & Mary in Virginia asking for his autograph. He also did a Skype interview with a student at Temple University about his campaign.
For Kraft though, the campaign was a different experience. Coming from a member of the Leadership Roswell Alumni Association who usually serves as the moderator asking questions at candidates forums, Kraft found himself on the receiving end of the questions.
“When you ask a question, it is pretty easy, you just lob the questions, but when you have a camera pointed at you, a recorder or such, you really have to think pretty quick,” he said.
When asked what his first act would be if he was to become president, Kraft said it would be to surround himself with good people.
Though he did not emerge the winner in the primary, Kraft did not rule out a possible run for office in the future.
“I don’t have any goals at this point to step into a position, but I am not opposed to it if it happens,” he said.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.