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Candidate forum shows 'no villains' running for House District 2

October 20, 2010
SANBORNTON — Neither wind nor rain nor dark of night kept interested voters from a Candidates Forum at the Sanbornton Town Hall Friday evening, where they had a chance to pose questions and hear from candidates for District 2 House of Representatives.

Democrats Liz Merry and Eric Dawson and Republicans Dennis Fields and Bill Tobin are vying for two seats in the Legislature to represent District 2 and the towns of Tilton and Sanbornton. Dawson was unable to attend the forum, which was moderated by Ed Engler of the Laconia Daily Sun.

In opening statements, incumbent Merry said her priorities in the next biennium included managing the state budget, creating new jobs, continuing the work on state school funding and healthcare.

"New Hampshire is a great place to live. It has a high bond rating and is one of the best places to raise kids. I want to work collaboratively to keep it in that position," she said.

Fields led off by informing voters he previously served 11 terms as a representative when he lived in Merrimack. Now in Sanbornton, he said voters asked him to run in the last election because of that experience. In his recent term, he had a 100 percent attendance record where he supported veteran affairs. He voted against a broad-based tax and the LLC tax while supporting local schools, gun rights under the Second Amendment, police fire and affordable housing.

"I'll be proud to represent you again in Concord," he said.

Tobin looks to return to public service once more, having served in the past as a selectman in Sanbornton as well as a previous term as a state representative. He is an Air Force veteran, has grandchildren in the school systems and owns property in both Tilton and Sanbornton, giving him a vested interest in both communities.

"I believe you don't just talk about things, you do it. That's why I'm running," said Tobin.

The first question concerned the matter of gay marriage and whether any of the candidates would vote to repeal the law. Fields said he voted against the law, believing the term civil union covered the issue and Tobin said his problem involved the word "marriage" also.

"I cannot tell you who to like; that's between you and the person you're with ... Keep the word marriage as it is though and create something new and go with that," Tobin said.

Merry, on the other hand, felt it was a human rights issue and people should be free to marry whomever they chose.

Another question asked for the candidates' stance on legalized gambling. Merry said she had serious concerns about the bill and felt it needed to be studied more for the social impact costs gambling could have in the state. Tobin felt once the budget was under control he would consider the bill and Fields said any source of revenue would be helpful if it would cut taxes.

"It's better than having a sales or income tax in the state," he said.

When asked how they might curb wasteful spending at the state level, Fields suggested the state put a halt to new programs taxpayers cannot afford. Merry said perhaps some changes in Medicaid could be looked at, although care should be taken when looking to cut back on anything. Adding more revenue would be important, but that, she said, is where talk of broad based tax comes up and "now is not the time for that."

Tobin would approach the problem by reducing the size of government, using attrition to bring others across in a position when a state employee retires rather than hiring someone new.

"Re-evaluate every department. Let's get back in control," he said.

When asked if they were in favor of selling state assets to help balance the budget all three voiced their opposition, although Merry said she would consider that option on some real estate that might not be in the state's best interest to own. Tobin felt sale of real estate would only be a temporary fix to financial woes. "Lease it, don't give it away," said Tobin.

Listing their past accomplishments, Fields said he worked to get a 100 bed dementia unit build at the Veteran's Home along with many other bills for veteran's affairs. He worked on issues with roads in the area, made himself available to constituents and readily assisted them with any concerns they had.

Merry said she became involved in mental health issues and helped write two bills on the matter. She was a part of the Committee of Conference to resolve issues between the House and Senate, worked on the Rails to Trails bill and fought for ARRA funding to help bring broadband technology to "unserved areas" of the state. This summer, she became actively involved in supportive housing for veterans.

Tobin said in his previous time as a legislator he did not write any bills, feeling there was too much money wasted on many of the bills already being presented.

"There's too many laws out there. We're losing our freedom. I would vote to repeal bills that aren't enforceable," he said.

As a final wrap up on the night, Merry said each candidate has different approaches, but "There are no villains here."

The forum was taped for those who could not attend and will be broadcast on Lakes Region Public Access until Election Day.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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