By Devyani Chhetri
BU News Service
NASHUA, N.H. — The weekend menu for the New Hampshire primary began with the dessert section at a political bake-off fundraiser hosted by the Nashua Democrats City Committee on Feb. 8, 2020.
Out of six competitors, a deceptively plain-looking chocolate fudge cake was crowned the winner, and a white fondant cake with a ‘Blue Wave 2020’ decoration came in second.
State Representative Laura Telerski, 48, beamed about being crowned the winner.
“You can be a stay at home mom who loves to bake and a state representative at the same time,” she said. “That’s the beauty of New Hampshire politics.”
Telerski said she got involved in politics after growing tired of sitting on the sidelines.
“The emotion that that got me to run for office was Charlottesville,” she said.
President Donald Trump said that he condemned bigotry in all forms but also tweeted that both sides had “fine people.” Trump was criticized for downplaying the incident at the time.
“I actually went to a National Democratic city committee meeting the very next day because I didn’t know what else to do, and then here I am now,” Telerski said.
Telerski said that she would rather be a voice in the room than sit at home and be confused, disappointed and angry watching what’s happening in the state and in the country.
Her sentiments mirrored former governor of New Hampshire and U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan’s speech at the beginning of the bake-off.
This was a critical time, she said. All eyes, both national and international, would be on the “granite state,” especially after the delay in the caucus count in Iowa and a failed impeachment trial.
Trump’s acquittal, she said, was a warning sign of the damage that he could still do until November to undermine the country’s national interests and elections.
“But the good news is that the perfect antidote to that is right here,” she said. “It is in Nashua, and it is in New Hampshire because we are a state that values not only grassroots campaigns, but grassroots movements.”
Padmaja Kunapareddy, 46, was ecstatic with her second-place finish in the baking competition. The software engineer felt that she had come a long way since emigrating to the U.S. 20 years ago.
“I wasn’t interested in politics when I was in India, but I got a call one day asking if I would like to volunteer and I said why not,” she said.
That call came back in 2002, a time when Kunapareddy had been going through the motions of settling into a new culture that sometimes seemed to be a direct opposition to all that she had known.
The fact that English wasn’t her first language also complicated the situation.
Although it wasn’t difficult to communicate with her colleagues at work, interactions with people outside the workplace were complicated, she said.
That changed when she got involved in canvassing and volunteering. Since 2002, Kunapareddy has been to many households canvassing and encouraging citizens to vote. She canvassed and volunteered for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Kunapareddy described herself as a terrible Indian cook who found that following baking recipes was easy. She’s been baking for over five years, and she even took a professional baking class.
She tells any person she meets from the Democratic Party that if the need for a cake should arise, they should contact her.
“A lot of immigrants, and I can only speak for some, stay away from politics because they think that it’s dirty,” Kunapareddy said. “As an American, I cannot fight for my country, but this is a small contribution I can make.”