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Two Face Off for Vacated Claremont Ward II N.H. House Seat

Voting for the special election to fill the New Hampshire House seat representing Claremont’s Ward II is Tuesday, June 4, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Claremont Middle School. Voting is open to Ward II voters only.

Claremont — Two former lawmakers with sharply differing views on a range of issues, including casino gambling, will face off in a special election June 4 to fill the seat of former state Rep. Tom Donovan, D-Claremont, who resigned earlier this year.

Republican Joe Osgood and Democrat Larry Converse are hoping to become the next state representative from the city’s Ward II district.

Converse believes that the state could better serve the public if a casino were approved. (He and Osgood were interviewed prior to yesterday’s House vote, where lawmakers again rejected a proposed casino).

“I am in favoring of it because we need the revenue and jobs,” said Converse, 70, who is retired and served in the New Hampshire House in 1983-84 and again from 2004- 2008.

Converse said his only opposition to the proposed legislation is how the location would be chosen for a casino.

“We should let them put in bids on where they want to build it,” he said, as opposed to the state choosing the site.

Osgood, who has owned Joe’s Family Car Care in Claremont for 16 years, says the state would be better off without a casino.

“I am thoroughly against gambling because of the social issues that come with it,” said Osgood, 59, echoing a point made by others opposed to expanded gambling.

The differences between the candidates continue with education, which Converse said is his primary reason for running.

“My major thing is education, kindergarten through college,” said Converse, adding that he wants increased funding for the state university system. “The state has never fully funded any of the programs it started for education.”

Converse charged his opponent with trying to cut education funding through a law that allows businesses to take a tax credit for money donated to a scholarship program that allows a needy child to attend a non-public school.

“I am against that and I know my opponent is against public schools,” said Converse. “He voted against Claremont when it came to the Claremont lawsuit,” referring to a landmark court decision requiring the state to provide an adequate education for all students.

Osgood, angered by the charge, said he is “100 percent in favor of education.”

Passed in the last session, when Republicans controlled the House, the education tax credit program, Osgood said, is a way to benefit students, not take money away from public schools.

“I worked diligently to get that passed,” said Osgood. “What it does is create competition in the education system, which has been proven to improve education.

“The Democrats are trying to repeal it; saying it is unconstitutional because it is a voucher. It is not a voucher. The money does not come from the government.”

As for being against the Claremont lawsuit, settled in a 1997 state Supreme Court ruling, Osgood said he is tired of spending money on lawyers and “getting nowhere.”

“The only people making money on this are the lawyers and I’m sick of it. The education tax credit program is the first move forward for education that is positive since the lawsuit,” Osgood said.

Osgood was elected to the House in 2005 and re-elected for three terms. Last November he was defeated by David Pierce, D-Etna, in a bid for the District 5 state Senate seat.

“I want to go back down to Concord for the same reason I wanted to go there before: to look out for my family and my children,” he said. “I don’t like the way the state spends our money.”

As an example, Osgood said in the current session there was an effort to include tips for servers in restaurants as part of the business’s total revenue for the purposes of determining the business enterprise tax.

“They interpret rules to collect money and this is another back door approach to siphon money out of businesses,” said Osgood, adding that he thinks Democrats create too much regulation that costs small businesses money. “Businesses can’t afford to do that.”

Converse brought up the Republican repeal of a $30 surcharge on car registrations that Democrats had passed to provide money for road repairs.

“He (Osgood) doesn’t think we need the $30 because the roads aren’t that bad,” Converse said. “It is one of the things he brags about. Somebody has to pay to fix the roads and I can’t see any other way to fix them.”

Indeed, Osgood said he is proud of the repeal.

“I’m very pleased we got away with repealing the surcharge,” Osgood said. “But I am not pleased with our roads.”

Osgood said the state receives sufficient money from the gas tax for road repairs but has a practice of spending some of it on other uses. More money from the public is not the answer, he said.

“We are in tough economic times and now is not the time to try to tap more money out of the public,” said Osgood.

As for his opponent’s remarks regarding his stand on education, Osgood claims someone is coaching Converse. “What bothers me is his punch lines aren’t factual. To say I am not in favor of public education is incorrect. I just want to see us produce for what we spend on it.

“And I want the money collected for roads spent wisely.”

Converse has another goal if he is sent to Concord.

“I want to make sure they don’t overturn the Claremont lawsuit (on education) and take the courts out of it,” he said. “I think the courts should stay right where they are and keep fighting for lower property value towns.”

Donovan resigned his seat in February for health reasons.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com