The campaign signs no longer line the streets; the attack ads and front-door mailers are months in the past. But the fallout from a bitterly fought presidential election still plays out nationally, in harsh television exchanges and fiery tweets.

Emotions are high; relations are fraught. But in a time when division may seem endemic — endless, even — local political leaders hope to turn those feelings around.

On Sunday afternoon, the county Republican and Democratic parties will co-host a luncheon at The Community Kitchen in Keene. The theme: “Community Unity.”

Members of either party, or neither party, are encouraged to RSVP, according to a flier. The event, sponsored by both parties, is free; attendees need only bring an item of non-perishable food.

As of Tuesday, more than 20 Republicans and 30 Democrats had already signed up, according to county party officials.

The lunch is the brainchild of local Democrat JoAnn Fenton and Cheshire County Republican Committee Chairwoman Kate Day, who started talking about the idea in August.

“The idea is to be able to talk to each other,” said Day.

The luncheon never fully got off the ground during campaign season. But after the election, both sides were emboldened by the idea, Fenton said. Carl DeMatteo, chairman of the Cheshire County Democrats, and John Therriault, a Keene Republican, were soon brought into the mix.

The leaders discussed the lunch through December, picking a final date of Jan. 15, five days before the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump.

Accompanying the meal will be a guest performance by a New Hampshire humorist — Rebecca Rule, an author of books finding comedy in Granite State life.

Rule, of Northwood, said taking the gig was an easy choice.

“I like to tell stories any time, any place,” she said. “This seemed like a place where a little laughter would be appreciated, and (would) bring people, so it seemed to fit right in.”

The luncheon comes at a time when “unity” in politics seems like a distant goal, where trenches seem deeper, and priorities farther apart.

But for the county party officials, the luncheon is driven by simple reality: despite the rancor on the national stage, New Hampshire voters are neighbors, first and foremost.

“At the national level, the races were so emotional,” Therriault said. “People were so invested in the outcome one way or another. But at the local level, we all have to live in the same place; we all have to solve the same problems.

“It’s a great idea to put all that national emotion aside, and still realize that you have to work together.”

DeMatteo agrees. In election years, partisan passion is high, he admits. But he says that doesn’t have to be a permanent state of being.

“We share this community,” DeMatteo said. “We share this region. We’re going to operate within the American system. But when that’s over, if we’re not willing to sit down and do business with each other … then we’re dead.”

Against such a divided national backdrop, reconciliation might seem ambitious. But to Fenton and Therriault, the goals of the luncheon aren’t to come to agreement on policy, but simply to meet and talk.

“We’re neighbors, we’re friends, we work together; in some cases we’re spouses, Fenton said. “And we’re not the enemy.”

In fact, Therriault said, politics will probably not be discussed at all.

Day put it in simpler terms: “Apparently there are those who see Republicans as evil, as monsters. Maybe if we talk to each other, we can see each other as human beings.”

Sunday’s lunch will be Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at 37 Mechanic St. in Keene. Those interested are asked to email JoAnn Fenton at or John Therriault at