The teenage sisters who became New Hampshire celebrities for taking a picture with every presidential candidate, have decided to use their newfound clout – to endorse Hillary Clinton.
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Emma and Addy Nozell took an “endorsement selfie” with Clinton at the Women’s Economic Opportunity Summit on Thursday in Manchester, N.H.
For Clinton, it’s a chance to appeal to young voters, which Bernie Sanders has courted aggressively. For the media-savvy Nozell sisters, it’s one more step in their months-long march to political fame.
What made these girls such a big deal?
It started as a simple mission: snap a selfie with every presidential candidate who came through New Hampshire.
But then, something strange happened. They found themselves giving interviews to just about everyone.
“I think when we first realized we were a huge deal was at the Trump event,” recalls 17 year-old Addy Nozell, from Merrimack. “They cleared this whole pathway for him to walk, except for Emma and I…he came to us, we met halfway, and he was like, ‘let’s get this selfie.’”
She looks at her 15 year-old sister, Emma, and arches her eyebrows. “It was like, ‘huh. He knows about us.’”
The Nozell sisters completed their selfie-taking spree in October, scoring snapshots with 22 major candidates.(The only exception was Jim Webb, who dropped out of the race before visiting New Hampshire as a candidate.) Along the way, they became a staple of the campaign trail, fielding calls from press secretaries anxious to arrange a photo opportunity.
Along with their mom, who now finds herself fielding press inquiries on their behalf, the girls picked up a few tricks of the trade along the way. They spoke to ABC News on the condition that the interview not be published until the Clinton team officially announced the photo op, saying they didn’t want to step on the campaign’s toes.
Why Hillary Clinton?
“She’s very qualified in what she’s doing,” says Addy, a high school junior who will get to vote for the first time in November.
It’s not the first time the girls have appeared alongside Clinton. Their parents have taken them to campaign events all their lives, a perk of living in a state that hosts the nation’s first primary. In 2007, when Emma was just 7 years old, the pair attended a Clinton event. Addy ended up in a campaign ad.
In the end, the choice came down to two Democrats: Clinton, and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.
“Gay rights are very strong for us” as an issue, explains Addy, which she says ruled out several Republicans – despite former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who favors an amendment banning same-sex marriage, being one of their favorite selfie companions. The sisters have several gay and lesbian friends, and see marriage equality as a basic right.
Clinton and O’Malley, who have championed LGBT causes throughout their campaigns, each “get the ‘Gay OK,’” adds Emma with a thumbs-up.
Their mother, Wendy Thomas, says Emma and Addy aren’t unique in their views. “That’s going to be the big problem for the Republicans in the future,” she says from the sideline. “Their whole generation feels that way.”
They insist they kept an open mind as they met each candidate – they’ve even awarded a mini-endorsement to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, saying if they were voting Republican, he would have their support.
Life on the selfie trail
As for selfies, every candidate was different.
Martin O’Malley was the most personable, they agree, and Rick Perry was the strangest, with his eyes wandering from the lens whenever they tried to snap a picture. Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, they say, was clearly the least tech-savvy.
“He had like a hundred followers!” says Addy, noting that his Twitter fan base has grown considerably since they met him in July. Of course, theirs has too.
They’re still looking for a picture with Vice President Joe Biden, who abandoned his presidential hopes after the first Democratic debate.
Addy says besides voting for Clinton, she’s not sure how she’ll end up contributing, but she’s eager to help. “Whatever she needs – that I’m capable of,” she says, noting that she probably won’t be asked to recruit big names or bundle campaign contributions. “Anything on a teenage level.”
They might not be asked to lead many rallies. Getting ready to announce Clinton as their choice to ABC News, the girls sit in the social studies office at their high school, drumming their fingers on a desk.
“One, two, three…Hillary!” Addy shouts, while Emma collapses into giggles. “You suck at this,” Addy says, rolling her eyes as if to say: Ugh. Sophomores.