Kathy Sullivan is the former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
Judy Reardon was one of the best people I knew. When he died on December 16, New Hampshire lost one of its smartest and toughest political strategists, and many of us also lost a loyal, funny and caring friend.
She was witty and very intelligent. Attending Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School honed these natural skills. Although she was Ivy-educated, however, growing up in Manchester gave her a practical political sense and a no-nonsense attitude. The combination of Ivy education and the heart of Manchester made her a sought-after advisor and consultant to a medley of local, state and national candidates.
After law school, Judy served a couple of terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives while practicing law with McLane, Graff, Raulerson and Middleton. He then practiced public interest law with the New Hampshire Public Defender for three years. After a client tried to excuse a crime involving a child, she told him to get out of her office, making him realize it was time to move on.
Although I knew Judy from Manchester and local politics, we really became friends as supporters of Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt’s presidential campaign in 1988. It was a very small group of supporters, but the friendships that were made in that campaign they were enduring. It wasn’t easy then, being a Democrat from New Hampshire, but working on unsuccessful campaigns was excellent training for the successes to come.
In 1996, Judy began working on Jeanne Shaheen’s first gubernatorial campaign. At first, he came to me for a donation. He looked at the check and said, “I promise not a cent will be spent.”
When the New Hampshire Democratic Party primary opened, Judy encouraged me to run. He often asked for his opinion. She was always right.
His devotion to Jeanne Shaheen is well known. As legal counsel to the governor and later counsel to the senator, she was somewhat feared by Republicans and Democrats who did not always support Shaheen. When Manchester Democrats roasted Judy at their annual (and stupid) St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, Gov. Shaheen’s chastened primary rival, Mark Fernald, who had faced Judy’s wrath, compared her to Rasputin . He took it in good humor.
Judy and I had a ritual on election day: visiting Manchester neighborhoods as a flying voter protection team. Judy was carrying a clipboard and pretending to take notes talking to the Democratic sign holders while I looked at the Republican side.
There was never a major problem with our watch!
On Election Day 2006, we called campaign managers Mike Vlacich and Nick Clemons to report the turnout at 10 a.m. They reported that the numbers were not what they should be. Judy and I went into a severe depression. A few hours later we called again, and they said, oh, everything is fine, don’t worry.
I’m not sure they know how close to death they were for not calling to tell us hours before.
Judy was a big part of New Hampshire turning blue that night.
His life was not all politics. He liked to travel. For example, Judy, her sister, State Representative Patty Cornell, and Patty’s husband, Rik, took an Amazon cruise and a trip to Africa. She loved animals, especially her cat Huey. He liked to watch TV. Just a month ago, Judy, our friend Liz Purdy and I were texting about what to watch. He liked science fiction; had a DVD collection for the V series.
One of the activities he was able to enjoy during the covid pandemic was watching Liz Purdy and Mike Vlacich’s daughters play softball. She volunteered with the local literacy program and was also a member of the Manchester Water Commission.
She was a loyal friend and people were loyal to Judy. After her leukemia diagnosis about 11 years ago, Sen. John Kerry called to offer to put her in touch with the doctors who treated him when he had cancer. This autumn, when Judy’s health began to decline, Senator Shaheen collected Greek food at Manchester’s Glendi festival and delivered it to her home.
One night when she was locked in her house as her health declined, she texted me saying she was reading poetry and thinking about her father and how hard he worked.
Her death has devastated a number of young people she mentored over the years, as well as her friends.
Judy was only 64 years old. He is missed.