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Katrina Swett prepares to run for Hodes' seat

July 29, 2009
WHITEFIELD — Katrina Swett expects to be a candidate for Rep. Paul Hodes' 2nd Congressional District seat in the 2010 election. It's anticipated that Rep. Hodes will run for the Senate seat now held by Judd Gregg. Mrs. Swett, a Democrat from Bow, made this announcement at an informal gathering at the former Woodburn House on the Whitefield Common.

Mrs. Swett fielded questions on health care, the local economy, energy, Afghanistan, and veterans medical care in the very personal face-to-face meeting with about a dozen residents from around the area.

Host for the evening was Jeff Woodburn, who ran her husband, Dick Swett's campaign when he successfully ran for the same Congressional seat in 1991. Mr. Swett served two terms, 1991-95. Mrs. Swett ran unsuccessfully against Charles Bass in 2002.

Mrs. Swett comes from a political family — her father is the late Tom Lantos, a long-time California Congressman. She is proud of her Hungarian heritage. Both of her parents were Holocaust survivors. Her father died last year, and she told the story of how he came to the United States on an academic scholarship, with $5 in one pocket, and the end of a salami in the other. "Though he came here with nothing, he found something valuable," she said. "A wide-open country" with many opportunities.

Current events, especially the U.S.'s relationship with the rest of the world, are the catalysts that propel her to return to public service. "(It's) reawakened in me the desire to jump back into the arena."

Mrs. Swett, who holds a Ph.D., currently teaches a course in International Relations at Tufts University in Boston, taught previously at Southern Denmark University and lived in Europe for three years with her husband and children, when Mr. Swett was the U. S. Ambassador to Denmark.

It is her international experience, in particular, that Mrs. Swett believes would be useful if she is elected, although she conceded that with the economy on everyone's mind, that how the U. S. approaches "the very grave challenges in the world" would very likely be a second tier issue.

The toughest question of the evening came from Ray Gradual of Whitefield. With troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the death toll rising daily in Afghanistan, he asked the candidate: "Why are we in Afghanistan? It's 2009. Should we yank those guys out of there?"

"I don't think we should," said Mrs. Swett. "It's a very difficult situation…difficult because of the terrain, the culture, it's a land of tribal communities who have a profound aversion to foreign intervention. On the other hand we do have the beginnings of a democracy there.

"There are a lot of indications that the Taliban and other terrorist organizations are re-establishing themselves there. They are still tremendously dangerous. Pakistan is a huge challenge to this country. It's not an entirely stable situation there.

"There is a risk if we pull out of that region that Pakistan would fall. Their nuclear arsenal could fall into the wrong hands. These are dangerous people who hate us and are driven by religious fanaticism. They possess a much greater danger than the Soviet Union ever did. It would be deeply irresponsible if the President said 'we're out of here.'"

When asked about the woods economy of northern New Hampshire by David Van Houten of Bethlehem, she noted that the economy, climate change and energy are intricately woven. New Hampshire, she said, has a lot of wood, but needs a manufacturing base. "I agree with you that the North Country has the capability of having an energy economy," she told him.

She also tossed a question out to the audience: "What about wind power? We can't turn our backs on economies that leave a gentle footprint."

Brian Hardy, a selectman in Dalton, said that wind will solve only part of the energy problem, and wanted to know Mrs. Swett's position on nuclear power. "It has to be part of the mix," she said, adding that some European countries rely heavily on nuclear power as part of their energy package. France, for instance is 80 percent nuclear. She said though, that she'd like to include nuclear power in "an approach that takes into account a range of options," but not as a "pillar" of America's energy policy.

Mrs. Swett spoke briefly about her husband's involvement in a company that works to bring solar power to third world countries. "Solar has tremendous potential," she said, "the potential to transform regions of the world that have (quantities) of this natural resource." Her husband is also involved in Bridgewater Power, a 15-megawatt wood burning plant.

She supports healthcare reform and "quality healthcare for every single citizen," and hopes that with President Obama weighing in more heavily on the issue, it may not even be an issue next spring and summer during the congressional campaign. "The President, very much to his credit, has now stepped up his personal management of the health care debate," she said.

When Mrs. Swett told Mr. Hardy, a disabled veteran, that she supported a type of voucher system that would allow veterans to get medical treatment at any clinic, he urged her to make that a centerpiece of her campaign. "You have to talk it up," he said. "You need support from the veterans."

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