At 89, Doris Haddock walked 3,200 miles across the country to draw attention to campaign finance reform. At 94, she waged a quixotic campaign for U.S. Senate. Now, at 97, she will see those feats on screen in a documentary.
"Run Granny Run" depicts Haddock's 2004 decision - with no money and no campaign experience - to go from an activist for voter registration to actively seeking votes in a campaign against the powerful incumbent Republican Sen. Judd Gregg.
The documentary initially had been planned as a road-trip film chronicling Haddock's efforts to register women and minorities in swing states during a critical election year. But when the presumptive Democratic nominee dropped out of the Senate race, Haddock jumped in on the last day to file.
Filmmaker Marlo Poras decided to hang on though the November election, and recorded 350 hours of footage. "I was thrown into the fire and just kept on following her," Poras said in a telephone interview.
"Run Granny Run" won the audience award at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin, Texas. It will be broadcast on HBO at 9 p.m. on Oct. 18.
Publicly, Haddock - who campaigned on her nickname "Granny D" - brashly promised victory. "I love the smell of a landslide in the morning," she declared to cheers during her campaign announcement speech.
Privately, however, Haddock and company seem acutely aware of having potentially embarked on a fool's errand. "Run Granny Run" shows Haddock and her staff grappling with weak fundraising, ambivalence from the party establishment, and their own inexperience and self-doubt. Common as these dilemmas may be in grass-roots political campaigns, they are accentuated here by the contrast between Haddock, an aged, elfin, political neophyte, and Gregg, a smoothly confident scion of a political family, former governor and congressman.
In one scene, Gregg and Haddock meet by happenstance on a downtown stroll. They chitchat, he addressing her as "Mrs. Haddock." Haddock, with a bundle of fliers in hand, is in the process of canvassing shops. He suggests a trade, but when she puts out her hand, Gregg confesses he doesn't carry campaign literature.
In another, after a tough day of debate preparation, Haddock buries her head on her bed and prays: "Dear God, please don't let me make a fool of myself."
"It became important for me to show in the film that she was ... aware of the enormity of the task that she was taking on and that there was an absurdity to it," Poras said.
For her part, Haddock admits being somewhat relieved she lost the election - 66 to 34 percent.
"It was almost immediately after they got elected that they were ending up down there in Washington and making statements about things. And I said to myself, thank God I didn't make it," Haddock said in a telephone interview from her home.
She has returned to her core issue of public funding for campaigns and thrown herself into a bill on that topic coming before the Legislature. Haddock recently finished calling all 400 members of the New Hampshire House to ask whether they support the idea. She said more than three-quarters said yes.
"If I can help try to get this bill in, I will have done all I hoped to do," she said.
She hopes the film helps get the message out.
"Oh, I want to save the world. I want this to - I want it to be that one state after another will become publicly funded and a critical mass will form, this is my vision now. A critical mass will form and it will go federal."
© 2007 The Associated Press