Column: N.H. Secretary of State’s Office Must Be Non-Political

To the Valley News
Published: 12/3/2018 10:19:59 PM
Modified: 12/3/2018 10:20:03 PM

For the past 42 years, New Hampshire has had a non-political Secretary of State’s Office under the leadership of one of the state’s most respected public servants, Secretary of State Bill Gardner.

Former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern has raised more than a quarter of a million dollars through his political action committee to run against Gardner. Both are Democrats. The question we all need to ask ourselves is, why is Van Ostern spending more than $250,000 to try to become the next secretary of state when Gardner has never accepted political donations to run?

Early on, when he ran for secretary of state, Gardner promised that he would not run for higher office. I don’t remember seeing a news report indicating that Van Ostern is pledging the same. What I believe is that Van Ostern, if elected, will turn the Secretary of State’s Office into a political office that will put much in jeopardy for our state, including the crown jewel of our first-in-the-nation primary, which Gardner has successfully fought for and defended over 42 years. For that reason alone he should be re-elected without question.

Further, I believe Van Ostern, who lost in the recent gubernatorial primary, is looking at the secretary of state position as a steppingstone for another run for governor, the U.S. House or U.S. Senate. Why else would one spend more than a quarter of a million dollars to run for this position?

Five former New Hampshire governors have endorsed Gardner in the past week: John Lynch, Stephen Merrill, Craig Benson, John H. Sununu and Judd Gregg. Former Govs. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both Democrats, are not endorsing Van Ostern and have decided to remain neutral. Why is it that not one of those seven former governors is supporting Van Ostern?

My father, Meldrim Thomson, served our state as governor from 1973-79, during the time that Gardner first ran and became secretary of state. He worked with Gardner and was impressed with his knowledge and support as a solid constitutionalist and defender of both our election laws and the primary. If my father were alive today, I know without a doubt he would have joined Lynch, Merrill, Benson, Sununu and Gregg in standing behind Gardner.

To all New Hampshire voters: Please call or email your newly elected state legislators and senators, who will be voting tomorrow to elect a secretary of state, and ask them to support Bill Gardner. A list of House and Senate members may be found at and

Tom Thomson, of Orford, is a tree farmer and forestland owner.

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