Wakefield hosts candidate forum
|GREATER WAKEFIELD AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE hosted a candidate forum Monday night at the Opera House. Pictured here (from left) are County Attorney candidate Thomas Dewhurst, incumbent Sheriff Christopher Conley (who is seeking re-election), Sheriff candidate Domenic Richardi, and incumbent County Attorney Robin Gordon (who is also seeking re-election). (Mellisa Ferland photo) (click for larger version)|
October 28, 2010WAKEFIELD — The campaign trail is nearing the finish line as state and county candidates are making their final push to gather support before the Nov. 2 election.
About two dozen people turned out Monday night at the Wakefield Opera House to meet and listen to the District 5 candidates in a forum organized by Wakefield Area Chamber of Commerce. District 5 includes the towns of Wakefield, Brookfield, and Effingham and represents, according to the NH Secretary of State's office, 7,043 registered voters.
The time for candidates to give general statements about themselves and their positions was limited Monday night but there was plenty of time for audience questions, of which there were few from the 20 or so voters attending.
First up were the state office candidates. There are four people, running for two N.H. Representative seats, including incumbent Republicans Dino Scala and Joseph Fleck who are being challenged by Democrats Martha Pike and Jeff Ballard. All were present at the forum except Ballard whose wife, Stephanie, spoke on his behalf as he is currently stationed in Afghanistan, but will be returning to the United States in December.
One voter was quick to question Scala on his attendance record in Concord during his two-year term, pointing out that in her research Scala was not present for 84 votes. "How can I be sure you will represent us? We want a representative who will be in Concord to vote on our behalf," she said. Scala replied that in his first year he had 100 percent attendance and acknowledged missing some time going into the second year but his average attendance remained at 88 percent. "Priorities for earning a wage did get in the way," said Scala who added that during his missed time he was attending the part-time police academy which he has since completed.
Scala and Fleck have a similar platform, expressing concern that the current administration is not being fiscally conservative or making tough enough cuts and that state government is trying to chip away local control. "We are at a crossroads," said Scala, "It's time to make some serious decisions."
"I believe in local control. Too many times we have had to deal with issues aimed at taking control from local communities such as the comprehensive shoreline protection act, in education, greenhouse gas emission, and others," said Fleck.
Pike, referring to herself as a moderate Democrat, said a lot of progress has taken place at the state level and is hopeful her common sense can be put to good use in Concord. "Many are disillusioned with the national campaign from both parties and need a moderate choice," said Pike. In her brief two minute speaking time allotted, she added she is concerned about the job situation in the state, supports development of public transportation and increased broadband access in Carroll County and is opposed to any broad-based tax.
Ballard said of her husband, "He is educated, motivated, very positive and very selfless. Jeff believes that people should not bring up a problem if they don't come to the table with a solution.. He is an advocate for others and can take their concerns to Concord… He has a long history of public service… He does not support sales and income tax and want to work to create jobs in this area."
Ruth Hall, speaking on behalf of N.H. Senate candidate Beverly Woods, said Woods is a small business person running with the notion of responsibility and is committed to long term ecological and economical resources. "She stands for every working person who has to stretch every dollar...The best we can get is a government that takes their job seriously while balancing the needs of the people. I think that is what Beverly will do for the people," added Hall. Woods will be challenged by incumbent Jeb Bradley.
In response to a question about the right to bear arms (the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution), Scala responded that both he and Fleck are endorsed by the National Rifle Association. Scala added while he is in favor with a person's right to own guns, a criminal background check should be required if there is a gun sale from one party to another at a gun show.
An audience member asked for the candidates' thoughts about the right to life for all people. Pike pointed out that while she personally opposes abortion, it is not the government's business to make decisions about whether or not a woman should carry a child. She likened the thought of government controlling this to the Taliban. "When religious views are used to control the government, there is trouble," said Pike. She also remembers a time when abortion was illegal, but it still took place. "Legislating it out of existence will not work. People have a right to healthcare," said Pike.
Scala and Fleck, on the other hand, expressed their belief that the "government has a primary responsibility to protect life, whether it is the elderly or a fetus. The right to life is an unalienable right," Fleck stated. Scala added that currently there is no law requiring parental consent when a minor seeks an abortion. "The Republicans will change this," said Scala.
In the county office race, Commissioner David Sorensen is running unopposed for re-election as is Register of Deeds Ann Aiton. County Treasurer Jack Widmer faces Democratic challenger Maureen Westrick-Forbes.
Aiton spoke on behalf of incumbent Gail Monet, who is being challenged by Ruth Hall for Register of Probate. Monet has been the Register for 12 years and Aiton pointed out she's served the county well, coming to the office with legal experience in the county attorney's office and with a private law firm. Hall proposed that the probate court does far less work than it used to following the shift in the court system that moved a significant amount of cases to the newly established family court. With that, Hall pledges to "return to the state of New Hampshire at least one quarter of my salary if I am elected…Public service was never meant to be economic security for the elected official's working life. Public service is just that: an opportunity to serve the public. So my second pledge is to serve no more than three terms," said Hall.
In the County Commissioner's race, Republican Asha Kenney is hoping to oust Democrat Chip Albee. Kenney supports hiring a clerk of the works to oversee the completion of the nursing home project and discounts Albee's claim that the project is $2 million under budget. Of his service as commissioner, Albee said, "Fiscal responsibility and open government – I think I've given you that. It's a hard job but I think I've delivered for you."
The race for County Attorney will pit 12-year incumbent Robin Gordon against Thomas Dewhurst. Gordon's stance is the position is a full-time one that requires being on-call 24 hours a day and is not a part-time position. Dewhurst argues that his experience as a police officer and prosecutor and having his own municipal law practice makes him uniquely qualified to serve in this position and make tough choices about which cases to prosecute given state court-system budgetary cuts.
Perhaps the most publicly contested county race is the run for Sheriff. Incumbent Christopher Conley will be challenged by Domenic Richardi. "I will continue to work every day for you," Conley said, "seeking incremental improvements in all we do. Deputies, dispatchers and other personnel are our best resource and we will continue to deliver outstanding police service as we move forward."
Richardi believes that his rise through the ranks of the sheriff's department make him better suited for the job. Of the department under Conley's leadership, Richardi said, "Fiscal responsibility is easy to say but harder to do. I don't believe current sheriff has been fiscally responsible. Morale is poor. A leader should have good morale at his office."
For voting information or polling hours, see page A1 of this edition.