PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — J. Joseph “Joe” Grandmaison, a larger-than-life Democratic operative who ran numerous campaigns and served as an appointee under three presidents, has died. He was 79.
Grandmaison died from the effects of Parkinson’s disease Saturday at Wentworth Senior Living, his brother said.
“With the passing of Joe Grandmaison, New Hampshire has lost a political legend,” said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.
Grandmaison led a number of campaigns and was an informal adviser on others. He was credited with counseling Democrat Bill Clinton to declare victory early in the evening in the New Hampshire primary. Clinton declared himself the “comeback kid” by taking second place, and went on to the first of two terms in the White House.
He grew up on working class neighborhood known as Crown Hill in Nashua, which shaped him.
“He never stopped believing that not everybody in life gets dealt a fair hand, and that government needs to be there in order to deal with the adversity or unfairness that most people experience at some time,” said his brother, Phil Grandmaison. “That’s why he was a Democrat.”
Grandmaison got his political start working on the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern in 1972, then managed Michael Dukakis’ successful campaign for Massachusetts governor two years later. That was just the start of many campaigns with his fingerprints on them.
Phil Grandmaison described his brother as a political fighter who made fast friends, even across party lines.
“He was easy to meet. You were apt to know him for a lifetime, once you got to know each other. But in politics, he was a rough competitor,” he said.
Later, Grandmaison served as President Jimmy Carter’s co-chair of the New England Regional Commission and Clinton’s director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. He twice served on the board of the Export-Import Bank under Republican President George W. Bush
“Joe was one of a kind,” said George Bruno, who preceded Grandmaison as state party chair. “He was as comfortable campaigning the streets of Nashua or Berlin as he was with the president in the White House.”