October 17, 2012LITTLETON — Democrat Jeff Woodburn is running for the District 1 senate seat because he is concerned that a way of life is threatened. He believes that the area's rural character lacks enough of a voice in Concord. Suburbanization in the southern part of the state diminishes the North Country's influence, Woodburn believes.
"We're losing our connection to rural areas," he said in a recent interview. Protecting a way of life is vital to Woodburn. "There's something really special about what we have," he said.
Residents, regardless of political views, understand that the North Country needs everyone's help, Woodburn said. This form of unity is important to Woodburn. "We need each other. We're tied to each other," he said.
Politics has been a key part of Woodburn's life. In 1984 he became the youngest person ever elected to a New Hampshire state constitutional convention. In college, Woodburn was an intern for Ray Burton. He has also served as state party chair and a member of the legislature. He was an aide to U.S. Representative Richard Swett, as well.
"I ran for office when I was 18 years old," Woodburn said. "I've seen how government can work, and how it doesn't work," he added. He wants to take this realistic view of government power to Concord.
Debi Warner, Woodburn's Republican opponent, suggests that he may not be pragmatic enough in some cases. She has raised concerns about Woodburn and gun rights. Swett voted to ban assault weapons in 1994, but Woodburn rejects Warner's implication. "We have a long history of responsible gun ownership," Woodburn said. He does not support additional gun laws.
Both candidates oppose Northern Pass. Each views the project as a threat to the North Country.
Woodburn believes that he has the proper view of economic development, a key issue for the region. He said leaders must avoid letting ideology get in the way of community choices. "All economic development options should be on the table," he said.
For example, Woodburn said, "I am open to gambling." If gambling was a way to help the Balsams, Woodburn said, "I don't think my philosophy should stand in the way."
Adamant opposition to gambling or private prisons may not serve the region well, Woodburn noted. His position on such matters will be driven by a view of "what will benefit the North Country," he said.
Woodburn wishes to study ways to decrease the state's reliance on regressive taxation, like gas taxes. He also suggested that the North Country does not get a sufficient portion of state revenues. "I'm going to be fighting to make sure we get our fair share," he said.
On social issues, Woodburn supports both abortion rights and gay marriage. For Woodburn, both matters rest on who should make the decision. "I would not ever trust the government to make personal decisions on health care," he said of his pro-choice views. He continued by saying that government has "no moral authority" to prevent marriage between gay couples.
Regardless of the issue, Woodburn wants to increase the North Country's voice. "There's a lot of reasons to live in the North Country," he said. "We've got to speak to all that greatness."