Mill Brook Christian Church, Grafton, NH October 22, 2014
Grafton County Representatives for Districts 9 and 17 Candidate Forum
Liz Tentarelli, co-president of the New Hampshire League of Women Voters opened the evening’s event at 7:10 with thanks to the candidates and public that came out on such a rainy evening. The low public turnout, 21 in the audience was disappointing but not unexpected given the lack of public outreach done to inform the public of the event. She first announced that although Jeff Shackett had committed to be there, he had a business emergency that required him to fly out to Florida that morning. It was noted privately before the meeting that some had seen him at another event on Saturday and he had told them he didn’t intend to participate in this event despite his agreeing to. Ms. Tentarelli then announced that neither Jeremy Olson or Bob Hull responded to any invitations. She then introduced Paul Simard and Kelly Monahan and asked them to each stand up and address the room regarding their campaigns.
Paul Simard is running for Grafton County Commissioner against incumbent Martha Richards. He’s interested in the financial end of things and wants to look at all the county agencies and work toward bipartisan ways to reduce costs to our aging
Kelly Monahan is the incumbent County Clerk running for reelection. She said in her next term she’d like to give libraries and historical societies free web access to county records.
The candidates on stage were then introduced and allowed to give their opening statements. Steve Darrow, running against incumbent Catherine Mulholland in Grafton’s floterial district 17, said he’s running because he feels he can make a difference in Concord. The theme of his campaign has been “working to build communities” through community service. The Iberdrola wind “farm” really brought the community together and while he’s not against green energy in general, he is when it’s illogical and fiscally unfeasible without tax subsidies. He also believes we need to restore the New Hampshire advantage so we can keep young people here to work and live. He has a pro-business platform, wants to reduce regulations and support small businesses. He’ll stand up for the interests of the people in the district, not special interests. He supports local sustainability and local communities need to have a say in what affects them. He’d also like to find ways to reduce energy costs so people don’t have to choose between eating or heating. Another of his concerns is Current Use and it’s cost to low and fixed income taxpayers. He pledged to continue to listen to and be available to his constituents. For 8 years he has been a director of the Mascoma Health Initiative, where he’s served more than just the town of Grafton or the Mascoma Valley School District, and feels this is a very important cause. He’s committed to education and having students prepared to today’ jobs. He supported the renovation of the Mascoma Valley High School and still does, but also supports charter and home schools as options to best serve our students.
Judy Wallick is running for one of the 2 available seats in Grafton District 9 where Jeff “no-show” Shackett is the only incumbent as Skip Reilly elected not to run again. She started her introduction by telling us she had a privileged upbringing and then worked in a venture-capital firm in New York. She moved to Vermont in 1991 with her 3 kids after a divorce. Ms. Wallick admitted getting a phone call from Jennie Tuthill, an Alexandria resident and staunch democratic, who schooled her on the hot topics and what her position should be on them. She’s been on the board of Headrest, a substance abuse treatment center and was also an organizer for Barack Obama’s campaign. Another organization she’s associated with is No Labels, an effort to stop the gridlock in Washington, D.C. through bipartisanship. She lives with her fiance in Grafton and raises free range chickens. She’s opposed to drastic government spending cuts, wants to serve the people, and believes solving their problems must come before special interest. She’s against industrial wind and believes the state budget needs to be a priority.
Catherine Mulholland has served 4 terms in the house and said, “We struggle to pay for the government we have, we need to try to raise needed revenue without putting more burden on property taxes.” She became a citizen of the United States in 1994 because she wanted to be included, be able to vote and participate. She feels the last two years have been “amazing” because they restored a lot of the cuts made prior to that. She talked about the healthcare clinic recently opened in Bristol and the one being proposed for Canaan that’s dependent on enrollment numbers to be realized. Ms. Mulholland said we need to return the democrats to Concord to keep Medicaid expansion in place. This, she stated is the most important concern right now. There was also mention of title loan outfits being a terrible thing and that people should join credit unions and build better credit ratings so they could avoid them.
Tentarelli then opened the floor to questions from the audience. Deb Clough (Grafton) asked the candidates where they stood on gambling. Wallick replied that with no sales or income tax it’s the only a to increase the broad income. She is concerned, however, with Millenium (to build a casino); she’d rather see sales and meals taxes used to increase revenue. Mulholland is “strongly” opposed to gambling as it’s an addiction that hits those with the lowest income the most. Then she said that she would be ok with a casino in the north country so long as there are no slot machines. Darrow also opposes gambling as it will affect the lower income people. He’s also against there being a gambling monopoly or duopoly in New Hampshire. There’s also a saturation of casinos in the Northeast and some casinos are closing down in New Jersey.
Bob Piehler (Alexandria) asked if there was a distinction between small farms and corporate land in Darrow’s current use issue. Mulholland stated that she thinks current use is good and she couldn’t pay her taxes without it and it’s not beneficial to chop up the land. Darrow said our small towns have a revenue problem, and he doesn’t want it wiped out completely but would like to look at tweaking it to make it more fair. Wallick echoed Mulholland’s sentiment that “our land would be unaffordable without current use” but she understands there is a revenue problem in NH.
Sandi Pierson (Orange) asked how much time and energy does it take to be a state rep.? The question was given to Catherine Mulholland to answer as she’s the only one with experience. She said from January to June they’re in Concord, and depending on which committee you’re on and how man bills there are, you can expect 1-2 days a week plus commute time. She’s usually working 3 days a week from 8-5 for $100/year + mileage.
Lori Lerner (Bridgewater) asked Catherine how she voted on HB581, the moratorium on new energy projects. Mulholland responded that “the wind issue is moot at this time.” Wind power is most appropriate on flat plains and off-shore, and she thinks it depends on whether or not you like the look of them and how you feel about alternative energy. Darrow would have voted for it, continuing that our rush to green has flawed the process. Wallick stated that industrial wind has no place in our region & we need to strengthen local control, adding that the SEC needs work.
Ken Cushing (Grafton) – Asked if the candidates are for or against extending commuter rail to Manchester. Darrow said we need to look at our carbon footprint, and if it’s fiscally feasible he’d be in favor of. Judy stated that the Burlington to Shelburn rail in VT is underutilized. Mulholland is not against public transportation but the popluation density makes it unfeasible here.
Cindy Kudlik (Grafton) asked how the candidates would react if the majority of their constituents reached out to them with different opinions on things like industrial wind or commuter rail than they’ve expressed tonight and what level of responsiveness they’d give them. Mulholland is too busy to respond to everyone and prefers phone calls to email or us mail. Darrow explained that he now upholds decisions of the (Grafton select) board, always responds to constituents and if his opinion differs from most he will do the will of the people.
Bob Piehler (Alexandria) – Do you think it’d be good to make NH a home rule state? Catherine said she’s been puzzled by what home rule means, she thinks it means you can do what you want if not already outlawed and is ok with it if it’s a consensus. Steve said it’s important that we have control over our own destiny and if you don’t have home rule, you’re controlled by Dillon’s rule. He would support it. Wallick agrees with Darrow.
Paul Simard (Bristol) Asked if they support Northern Pass. Darrow’s a no, Judy and Catherine are ok with it if buried.
Ms. Tentarelli then went into “rapid fire questions” asking about:
Death penalty repeal? All 3 no
Charter Schools? All 3 yes
Decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana? Judy – no, Darrow and Mulholland yes
Raise the minimum wage? Mulholland and Warrick no, Darrow yes.
Stand your ground in your own home? Judy confused by what it means, when explained to her, no. Darrow, yes. Mulholland, “I don’t know, I don’t have a gun.”
ACA? Darrow has problems with it, the republicans were shut out, but everyone has a right to healthcare. Judy – it’s a good first step. Catherine is for it.
?? not sure who asked this, man was sitting next to Judy’s sig. other – Do you support expanded Medicaid? Judy-yes. Darrow yes, but not sure on sunsetting it, he’s looking forward to collaborating with others in Concord for a solution. (Mulholland previously stated support for it so didn’t respond)
?? not sure who asked this one – Would you favor having the Vermont GMO labeling law in NH? Catherine responded in the affirmative as she is “violently” opposed to Monsanto but the (previous NH) legislation as it was proposed was poor and she didn’t support it. Darrow has concern for labeling everything because some things wouldn’t sell. Judy Wallick would favor that.
Ken Cushing asked if the candidates support an increase in state aid for school buildings? Darrow said yes, because we need to help communities maintain their schools. Judy Wallick replied, “I agree with Steve.” Mulholland also supports it.
(Not sure who asked this one, it might have come from Liz) And with that, what about roads and bridges funding? Judy Wallick feels there’s limited revenue but a lot of potholes; maybe toll roads &/or privatizing would help. Steve Darrow again admitted not having a solution and would look forward to learning more once he’s in Concord. He feels that the most recent gas tax increase should have gone there. Mulholland stated that the gas tax is a microscopic part of the cost of gasoline.
Lori Lerner then asked which committee the candidates would like to serve on. Mulholland, Finance; Wallick, Ways & Means; Darrow, can’t decide between 3, the Science, Technology and Energy, Education or Fish & Game as he’s an avid outdoorsman and hiker.
guy next to Lori asks if they want to maintain having no income or sales tax? Darrow is opposed to either one. Judy says we need tax reform but neither of those choices is popular and a value added tax drives businesses out. Mulholland said it’s not viable.
Kelly Monahan asked how the candidates feel about the militarization of our police and taser use. Judy Wallick said she doesn’t know. Steve Darrow said the taser use is out of hand, and the police need training as well as using more restraint. Catherine Mulholland stated tasers are too dangerous to be effective.
Debbie Black asked the final question, she wanted to go back to the current use issue and asked, “why should the rest of us subsidize you and your big plots of land; why keep it (current use)? Catherine said, “to keep us in our home.” Judy said, “to keep the land open.” Steve reiterated that this is an area we need to find a compromise for.
Catherine Mulholland – We need to be creative and open-minded, we are to serve but there will always be people who disagree. She thinks we did well this biennium.
Judy Wallick – Gave us 3 reasons to vote for her; good common sense; she will always be transparent; bipartisanship is important to her. She talked to Skip Reilly about guns, was a single mom of 3 for nearly 20 years and found balance while being fiscally conservative.
Steve Darrow – Is highly qualified to serve, has a reputation of serving, and is a consensus builder. He worked for 27 years at UPS in management; 9 years operations supervisor, 9 in engineering developing and implementing new processes and the last 9 in sales where he was selling service not product, which is much harder.