5th-grader wants to make NH officially purple

By Norma Love
Associated Press / December 10, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H.—First New Hampshire was a blue state with Democrats in charge, then a red state after Republicans' near sweep of state offices in November, and now a fifth grader wants to make it officially a purple state -- but not with a national political map in mind.

Ten-year-old Kristyn Demers of Pelham, a student at Presentation of Mary Academy in Hudson, knows nothing about the recent switch from Democratic to Republican control of most federal and state offices -- or the decade-long reference to states by color on a political map, with red denoting a Republican stronghold, blue for a Democratic stronghold and purple for a battleground state.

"No, not really," she said when asked if that played a role in her decision to get her state representative to file legislation making purple New Hampshire's official state color.

"I thought I could use purple for the purple finch, the purple lilac and white birch," Demers said in reference to other state symbols.

And purple isn't even her favorite color. Pink is.

Demers was on a class field trip to the Statehouse last spring when she handed a note to Gov. John Lynch suggesting the idea. She said he told her to contact her state representative to file a bill. So, she met last summer with Rep. Shaun Doherty, R-Pelham, who filed a bill. She plans to testify at a hearing on it this winter.

Suggestions for state symbols from grade-schoolers aren't new in New Hampshire. Last session, elementary students in Jaffrey lobbied successfully for apple cider to be the official state drink. For a while, it looked like milk might win, but in the end cider prevailed.

In 2009, Bedford elementary students successfully got the Chinook designated as the official state dog.

New Hampshire also has an official state insect (the ladybug), state amphibian (red spotted newt), state animal (white tailed deer), state gem (smokey quartz), state mineral (beryl), state rock (granite), state wildflower (Pink Ladyslipper), state butterfly (Karner Blue), state freshwater fish (brook trout), state saltwater fish (striped bass), state sport (skiing), state fruit (pumpkin) and state tartan.

New Hampshire wouldn't be the first state to designate a special color., which compiles facts about states, lists 11 on its website. Hawaii, which has no official state color, instead let each island choose a color; Kauai picked purple.

Purple ribbons are sometimes used to draw attention to pancreatic cancer, domestic violence and other causes, similar to yellow ribbons signifying support for troops, red backing the fight against AIDS and pink signifying breast cancer awareness.

Purple's political ramifications stem from the 2000 presidential election when a national color map was created, said Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. For about 100 years, Smith said, Democrats were associated with red and Republicans with blue, but the 2000 map swapped the color association.

"It screwed up about 100 years of books and maps and charts in history," he said.

Purple is the blend of the two colors and New Hampshire has been considered a battleground state in recent presidential elections, he noted.

Demers said she hopes New Hampshire lawmakers approve her choice for another reason: "It would help kids study" facts about states.