Candidates Line Up In Lebanon

Lebanon — Republicans plan to mount a full slate of candidates for Lebanon’s four New Hampshire House seats, which have been dominated for several terms by Democrats.

And while i ncumbent Democrats Susan Almy, George Sykes and Andrew White are running again, state Rep. Laurie Harding will be stepping down.

In an interview on Monday, Harding said “it’s someone else’s turn” to take on the role she’s played in representing the city’s 13,000 residents for the past 10 years.

She said personal and work commitments, including aging parents, two new grandchildren under the age of 6 months and ongoing professional roles as the co-director of the Upper Valley Community Nursing Project and in geriatric consulting, made her feel pressure to step down from her legislative post.

Harding lauded Lebanon Democrat Richard Abel, who is new on the ballot this year, as a “very bright guy” with “a lot of life experiences.”

Abel, a 16-year resident of Lebanon, is an associate professor in the doctor of arts leadership program at Franklin Pierce University.

Prior to teaching at Franklin Pierce, Abel was executive director of the book publisher, University Press of New England at Dartmouth College.

“I hope I can use some of my leadership skills that I have developed to address problems that might affect Lebanon citizens,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m running because I want to give back to my community.”

Abel considered a run in 2009 and decided to run for legislative office this year when he heard that Harding would be retiring.

“It was the right time because she was stepping down,” he said. “We have similar views about the role of government in helping the average person.”

Republicans Mike Balog, Raul Cervantes, Mike Long and Dan Nash also filed to run for House seats from Lebanon this year.

Cervantes, a Mexican immigrant who became a naturalized citizen three years ago, works as a handyman and has never held public office.

“I’m not a 100 percent politician,” Cervantes said. “I’m a normal person, just running for what is right in life.”

If elected, he said he would work for “less spending.”

For example, Cervantes said increased spending to support the state’s schools has not resulted in improved educational outcomes, noting that on a recent trip to Walmart his cashier struggled to make change.

He also expressed concerns about government assistance programs.

“A lot of people are taking advantage of welfare,” he said. “I don’t mind giving a hand for people who really need it (but) there are people taking advantage.”

Also running is Republican Dan Nash, a member of the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment and a former city councilor. He said he plans to run as a challenge to the Democrats.

“I just don’t think anybody should get a free seat,” he said.

Nash, who runs a Lebanon-based design firm, Advanced Geomatics & Design, said he stands for conservative values and minimally intrusive government.

He said he feels that some of the state’s land regulations have “gone too far.”

In particular, Nash pointed to a shoreland protection rule relating to land within 250 feet of a waterway.

He said the intent of the rule is to prevent construction of “big mansions” along the water’s edge, not to keep people from impacting woodlands at the outer edge of the 250-foot buffer.

If elected, he said he would work to “tweak that.”

Another area of particular interest to Nash is transportation, he said. He favors a gas tax to help fund road improvements across the state.

Republican Mike Long, a semi-retired health care consultant, said he has watched the political complexion of the city’s representatives change since he moved to the Upper Valley in 1981.

“The town of Lebanon over the course of that time has lost representation from middle ground/conservative constituents,” he said.

He hopes to “bring some of that perspective ... in state affairs,” he added.

In particular, Long said his concerns include financing health care reform and the new insurance exchange and making the state attractive to businesses.

Long, who has never held public office, said he is still in the “early stages” of his campaign, but that he is looking forward to “open debates” with his Democratic opponents.

If elected, Republican Mike Balog, a retired police officer, amateur photographer and nine-year city resident, said he would work against Obamacare and the education standards known as the Common Core.

He expressed frustration at what he termed, “a lack of fiscal responsibility down in Concord.”

In particular, he worried about funding the Medicaid expansion. He said he hoped to work toward “cutting wasteful spending out of the health care system.”

On the subject of education, Balog said the Common Core “attacks the rights of parents to determine what we teach in our schools.”

He said, if elected, he would bring the issue of the state’s education standards to a referendum and work to “put together a program acceptable to all our communities ... not just bureaucrats.”

Balog said as a representative he would like to sit on the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. From that position, he said he would work to prevent drugs from entering New Hampshire.

He drew a connection between crime and education, saying that young people need to build character and learn respect in order to have a “solid basic foundation” for the rest of their lives.

The primary is on Sept. 9, and the general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.