GOP Candidates Get Personal About Addiction in New Hampshire

Stories of death, devastation and hope in the face of state's growing epidemic.

—HOOKSETT, N.H. -- In the midst of a drug epidemic sweeping the state, several GOP candidates shared their own families’ devastating stories of addiction on Tuesday, joining state leaders at the Addiction Policy Forum at Southern New Hampshire University.

A recent poll by ABC affiliate WMUR and the University of New Hampshire showed for the first time in eight years, Granite State voters don’t view the economy as the top issue facing the state, but rather its skyrocketing rate of overdoses.

“There’s an old saying,” Fiorina said. “The eyes are the window to the soul. And as Lori grew progressively sicker, the sparkle, the potential, the possibilities that had once filled her life – disappeared from behind her eyes.”

As the conversation turned to second chances, Fiorina recalled “standing in front of a judge, begging him not to send her back to prison.”

In the end, her pleas didn’t work – and Fiorina now finds herself calling for treatment-based solutions.

“I know that experience did not help,” she said of her stepdaughter’s imprisonment, “because I saw her as she came out.”

Powerful moments from @CarlyFiorina as she describes losing her daughter to addiction: "the sparkle disappeared." pic.twitter.com/zDsiJPyo4Q

— Brad Mielke (@TheBradMielke) January 5, 2016

Overdoses now claim 129 lives a day in the U.S., according to organizer Jessica Nickel.

“That’s like two regional airliners,” she told ABC News. “Or the graduating class of a high school. If two regional airliners went down every day in the U.S., we would be up in arms about it. And we’re doing nothing.”

“You believe in miracles?” Kasich asked the audience, largely composed of recovering addicts. “Look in Jessica. You have to believe in yours.” “Miracles are never used up,” Kasich said, choking back tears. “There’s always room for one more.”

"Do you believe in miracles?" -@JohnKasich, pointing to organizer who was rendered homeless by parents' addiction. pic.twitter.com/YI0xnXLiks

— Brad Mielke (@TheBradMielke) January 5, 2016

“I will never forget the drug court graduation she had in Orlando,” Bush said.

“You don’t go to a neighborhood dinner party and say ‘hey my daughter is addicted to heroin, what’s new with you?’” the New Jersey governor deadpanned. “But if your daughter had cancer, you would tell them.”

That silence, he added, has resulted in little media attention. But he noted the bank of television cameras at the back of the room.

“You’re starting to get it,” he said.

That message, said recovery worker Sue Thistle, may have earned her vote.

“I didn’t like him coming into today,” she said. “But I’ve been in the addiction field a long time, and I know when somebody knows what they’re doing.”

Powerful moments from @CarlyFiorina as she describes losing her daughter to addiction: "the sparkle disappeared." pic.twitter.com/zDsiJPyo4Q

Overdoses now claim 129 lives a day in the U.S., according to organizer Jessica Nickel.

“That’s like two regional airliners,” she told ABC News. “Or the graduating class of a high school. If two regional airliners went down every day in the U.S., we would be up in arms about it. And we’re doing nothing.”

“You believe in miracles?” Kasich asked the audience, largely composed of recovering addicts. “Look in Jessica. You have to believe in yours.” “Miracles are never used up,” Kasich said, choking back tears. “There’s always room for one more.”

"Do you believe in miracles?" -@JohnKasich, pointing to organizer who was rendered homeless by parents' addiction. pic.twitter.com/YI0xnXLiks

— Brad Mielke (@TheBradMielke) January 5, 2016

“I will never forget the drug court graduation she had in Orlando,” Bush said.

“You don’t go to a neighborhood dinner party and say ‘hey my daughter is addicted to heroin, what’s new with you?’” the New Jersey governor deadpanned. “But if your daughter had cancer, you would tell them.”

That silence, he added, has resulted in little media attention. But he noted the bank of television cameras at the back of the room.

“You’re starting to get it,” he said.

That message, said recovery worker Sue Thistle, may have earned her vote.

“I didn’t like him coming into today,” she said. “But I’ve been in the addiction field a long time, and I know when somebody knows what they’re doing.”