N.H. State Senator Has Primary Foe

Saturday, June 21, 2014
Grafton — State Sen. Jeanie Forrester, the Meredith Republican who represents part of the Upper Valley, will face a primary challenge from a prominent Free State Project activist from Grafton.

And a Democrat has also filed to run for the Senate District 2 seat, which includes much of southern Grafton County, includi ng Grafton, Dorchester, Haverhill, Orange, Orford and Piermont, and the Lakes Region.

Forrester, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee and is seeking her third term, earned the enmity of the Free State Project when she voted this spring for a Medicaid expansion plan that would use federal funding to provide health insurance for about 50,000 low-income New Hampshire residents.

Her Republican challenger, Tim Condon of Grafton, who spoke over the phone from his law practice in Tampa, Fla., said his campaign “is essentially a protest against irresponsible votes and decisions made by Jeanie Forrester.”

A long-time libertarian, Condon moved from Florida to New Hampshire in 2004 for the Free State Project and founded the now moribund New Hampshire Legal Rights Foundation with former House Speaker William O’Brien.

Condon and O’Brien were attorneys in a lawsuit against Grafton County that delayed the construction of a new jail, brought by Robert Hull, then a member of the foundation’s board.

Both Condon and Hull, a former candidate who is again running for a House seat, are registered to vote from the same address, 12 Liberty Lane in Grafton.

Several members of the Free State Project, which encourages its participants to move to New Hampshire to promote libertarian ideas, have registered to vote from 12 Liberty Lane in the past.

Condon holds degrees in journalism, law, and accounting and was a Marine in Vietnam. If elected, he would encourage business in New Hampshire, which he described as “business-unfriendly,” by seeking to eliminate the corporate profits tax.

Condon called Forrester’s Medicaid decision “a vote in favor of Obamacare,” but Forrester disagreed, saying she did not support what Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan had initially proposed.

“If we had not come up with our plan, the only other choice was the governor’s plan, which was straight Medicaid expansion,” she said.

Forrester said the measure she backed provided taxpayer protection, private health insurance to the uninsured, and better provider payments to doctors.

In addition to the two Republican candidates, Democrat Carolyn Mello, of Holderness, has also filed for the race.

A first-time candidate, Mello has taught special education for 17 years, and before that worked with special education students as a vocational counselor. At different times a member of the Holderness School Board and president of the local teacher’s union, Mello negotiated teachers’ contracts from both sides of the table, which she said taught her the importance of listening.

Like Condon, Mello is a veteran, having served in the Air Force as a Russian translator in the 1970s.

Mello said she was committed to issues of education, and that in office she would also fight the Northern Pass Project, which she said threatens to “take away from our region’s beauty.”

Forrester, an early opponent of the Northern Pass, fought the project for years over its efforts to employ eminent domain, and remains strongly opposed, calling it “effectively a big extension cord going through New Hampshire to go to Connecticut and Massachusetts.”

Condon, on the other hand, has indicated that he backs the project, which calls for running new transmission lines through northern New Hampshire in order to carry Canadian hydropower to southern New England.

“Energy is the lifeblood of a modern economy,” he wrote in a 2011 blog post about Northern Pass.

Condon and Forrester will face off in the Republican primary on September 9.

In the two other New Hampshire Senate districts representing the Upper Valley, state Sen. David Pierce, D-Lebanon, is unopposed in his bid for a second term in the District 5 seat that stretches from Lyme to Charlestown and includes Lebanon, Hanover and Claremont.

And with Newport-area District 8 incumbent Bob Odell, R-New London, retiring, state Rep. Linda Tanner, D-Sunapee, has filed for the seat, as have Weare Republican Jerry Little and Deering Republican J.P. Marzullo.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.