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Woodburn returns campaign contribution to union

October 10, 2012
LITTLETON — Over the weekend, Jeff Woodburn, the Democrat running in the District 1 state senate race, decided to return a political contribution. He will give back the $500 donation that the State Employees' Association (SEA) gave to his campaign.

SEA led a boycott against certain Littleton businesses after the 2011 budget process. The boycott was a divisive issue in town. SEA, which eventually abandoned the boycott effort, was concerned that particular business owners supported cuts in town funding that led to layoffs.

Republican Debi Warner, running against Woodburn, questioned his priorities after he received the SEA contribution. In a statement, Warner said SEA tried to bully Littleton with the boycott. Warner's statement suggested that Woodburn supported SEA's tactics.

Warner turned one of Woodburn's themes against him on the donation issue. She said that Woodburn was letting outside interests dictate to the North Country. SEA is based in Concord.

In response on Monday, Woodburn noted that he respects SEA's efforts to protect workers' rights. However, "I disagreed with their tactics of boycotting several Littleton businesses last year," Woodburn said. "I watched the pain and division of the boycott," he continued.

Woodburn's statement noted that he raised the SEA donation issue with Littleton business owners and some political opponents. "I promised them that I would consider their opinion," Woodburn said. In the end, he said the input he received led to the decision to return the SEA funds.

Woodburn said, "I never let my politics interfere with my friends or my business relationships." Woodburn said he has been a customer of some of the businesses that were targeted in the boycott.

The debate over the SEA donation is another contentious development in the race to succeed retiring Senator John Gallus, a Republican. Previously, Woodburn criticized Warner for taking a donation from former Senator Bob Clegg, a Northern Pass proponent.

Warner said she is a long-time friend of Clegg. She remains strongly opposed to the Northern Pass proposal, however. The project would build 85-foot tall electric transmission lines through District 1 and further south.

Woodburn still believes that Warner should return the Clegg contribution. He said he didn't question her position on Northern Pass but rather her judgment accepting the donation.

Warner fired back at Woodburn recently. The issue was gun rights. She claimed Woodburn would be soft on protecting the right of gun ownership. Warner noted that Woodburn was former chief of staff to Congressman Dick Swett. While in the U.S. House, Swett voted for a national assault weapons ban in 1994.

Woodburn quickly issued a statement that he does not support changes to New Hampshire's gun laws.

Both campaigns have said they will defend the North Country's unique character. Warner and Woodburn suggest that the other side supports organizations that do not have our region's best interests at heart.

Based on state disclosure reports dated September 19, Woodburn had raised more than $36,000 during his campaign. Warner trailed in the money count with just $13,600 raised.

In less than a month, the accusations and debate will subside. On November 6, voters get to choose who would speak best for them.

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