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John Gregg: Simple Question, Non-Answer

J P Marzullo, the former Deering, N.H., selectman running in a contested Republican primary for the New Hampshire Senate District 8 seat held by the retiring state Sen. Bob Odell, R-New London, is a relative newcomer to politics.

But Marzullo, who grew up in Connecticut and moved to New Hampshire only nine years ago, has certainly been active in recent years, starting in the Contoocook Valley with the Tea Party crowd and rising to become vice chairman of the Republican State Committee before seeking elected office.

His Republican opponent, Jerry Little, of Weare, N.H. is a centrist Republican who served as president of the New Hampshire Bankers Association, and has won Odell’s endorsement.

Marzullo has been endorsed by the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, and, as he recently put it on Twitter, believes “It’s time to put #NHSenate into the hands of legislators who are part of ‘we, the people’ not part of ‘they, the establishment.’ ”

The 24-town district includes the Upper Valley towns of Newport, Grantham, Sunapee, Croydon, Unity, Springfield and New London, and the winner of the Sept. 9 primary will face Democratic state Rep. Linda Tanner, a retired teacher from Sunapee, in the general election.

Marzullo talks a lot about “common sense solutions,” and his website also highlights “accountable solutions with transparency.”

But there’s at least one basic fact where Marzullo is unusually reticent, and that regards how old he is. When the Valley News first asked in April, Marzullo hemmed and hawed, saying he was new to politics and not used to such questions, then finally allowed that he was 70.

But then he refused to tell the Concord Monitor his age for a profile it was doing, and when the Valley News checked back with him last week by email to see if he had had a birthday since April, Marzullo ducked again.

Instead, he forwarded the email to a campaign aide, writing to her, “I would like you to answer this as a Spokesperson for the campaign.”

The aide, GOP activist Glynis Citarelli, then wrote the Valley News to say, “JP forwarded along your below email. Moving forward, as campaign manager for JP, I will be your point of contact for any media inquiries. In regards to your below request, I’d like to know what the importance of JP’s age has to do with your upcoming piece in the Valley News.”

She offered to arrange an interview with Marzullo, but his campaign response had already spoken volumes.

Voters like to know the age of candidates for a number of reasons — seniors might identify with fellow seniors, baby boomers with baby boomers. Some sage young workers might also recognize that lawmakers with years of life experience have a lot to offer. Simply put, it gives voters, and readers, a frame of reference.

If Marzullo had lived in New Hampshire longer, he might even realize that being 70 (or 71) would practically make him a spring chicken in the New Hampshire Legislature.

But when someone running for public office doesn’t even want to say how old he is, that raises other questions. Is he uncomfortable with who he is? Is he going to be patient, and respectful, in talking to voters when they want an explanation for his stand on a controversial issue? Is he going to be open to discussion, and negotiation, with fellow legislators?

Moving forward, I think we know the answers.

Thetford Winner

Thetford Democrat Tim Briglin was out collecting lawn signs in Norwich and Thetford Wednesday night after he and state Rep. Jim Masland, D-Thetford, won a four-way Democratic primary on Tuesday for a two-seat Vermont House district representing Norwich, Thetford, Sharon and Strafford.

Briglin was the top votegetter, with 1,176 votes to Masland’s 1,094, and even finished first in Norwich, which was home to rival candidate Irv Thomae. The fourth candidate was Jill Michaels of Strafford.

“It was a little bit of a surprise,” Briglin said of the results. “It was not that I was well known. I think I had a great team. I had a lot of people supporting me in each town who are well known and well-respected, and I think that made the difference. Social connectivity — I was able to meet good folks, and they helped me meet other good folks.”

Among his top supporters was former state Rep. Margaret Cheney, the Norwich Democrat who had held the seat. Briglin said “she knows everyone in the district, and I think she’s extremely well-respected.” Campaign records indicate Briglin had spent almost $4,700 on the race by mid-August.

The New Hampshire Way

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan was at River Valley Community College in Claremont Wednesday for a ceremonial bill signing. Hassan inked a new law that may help establish a bus route between Claremont and Lebanon along the Route 120 corridor, a key priority for employers in Hanover and Lebanon.

The new law, which was sponsored by state Rep. John Cloutier, D-Claremont, and a number of other Upper Valley lawmakers, would allow Community Alliance Transportation Services of Newport to seek federal and private-sector funding for the bus route.

But, there is no state money provided for the project.