Joe Biden owes Dennis “Denny” Ruprecht ’21 a drink, but the Plymouth State student, who only recently reached legal age, isn’t too worried about settling up. The vice-presidential obligation is a result of a friendly wager between the two men, who became friends through the small and personal world of Granite State politics.
“I’ve gotten to know him very well,” says Ruprecht, who combines his PSU studies with statehouse sessions in Concord, where he serves as New Hampshire’s youngest state representative. Ruprecht has represented eight North County towns, including his native Bath, NH, for the past two years, and is running this year in an overlapping district that includes seven of the eight communities. Earlier in the year he considered not seeking reelection, but changed his mind when finding another candidate proved difficult.
During his first two-year stint he’s seen the impact of his legislative efforts in his rural district, including helping to secure more school aid for Haverhill, rebuilding a heavily damaged dam in Warren, and advocating for rejection of the Northern Pass transmission line project, a controversial topic of great concern to his constituency.
Ruprecht was an early Biden supporter and during the lead-up to February’s presidential primary he got to know the candidate at the party’s state convention, participated in ribbon-cuttings and field office openings around the state, and drove the vice president and his entourage to several campaign stops.
Ruprecht also introduced Biden at a party barbecue, and when they shook hands the vice president placed his command coin in Ruprecht’s palm. Command or challenge coins are special commemoratives, prized by collectors, which presidents, vice presidents, military leaders, and other top officials sometimes present via secret handshake exchanges.
“The vice president told me that this is what he does when he’s visiting our troops,” recalls Ruprecht. “‘Here’s the deal,’ he told me. ‘If you don’t have this the next time that I see you, you owe me a drink, and if you have it and I don’t, then I have to buy you one.’” When they next met the student had the coin and made the ask, but the candidate didn’t have his. Hence the friendly debt.
Ruprecht has devoted many hours to the Biden campaign over the past year and half. “I did it because I wanted to get involved, but I didn’t have any expectations of getting something out of it,” he says. Biden’s national campaign had other ideas, and contacted Ruprecht about participating in the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Ruprecht wound up as one of just 17 rising leaders from across the country who shared the honor of delivering the convention’s second night keynote speech.
The brief national spotlight has provided Ruprecht with new opportunities, including a smattering of radio and television interviews and exposure in statewide press. “It’s given me a little more credibility and kind of a platform,” says Ruprecht. “People are more willing to hear what I have to say. I’ve always been interested in national issues, but, as a lawmaker, my focus is on state and local issues.
“Everyone’s priorities right now are public health and our economy,” he continues. “We’re going to have some serious financial issues coming down the pike because of this pandemic, and along with that I think that at the top of everyone’s mind is maintaining public health and safety.”
Ruprecht plans to fully serve another two-year term if he wins reelection in November, and while the political science major has contemplated law school, he is keeping his options open for now.
For the record, he’s a nondrinker.