Quartet of Republicans vie for seats

  • Walter Spilsbury

  • Skip Rollins (Courtesy photograph)

  • Tobin Menard (Courtesy photograph)

  • Steven Smith (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 9/6/2022 9:03:31 PM
Modified: 9/6/2022 8:59:44 PM

The three Republican incumbents in the newly drawn Sullivan House District 3 hoping to return to Concord will first have to fend off a challenge from a former Libertarian candidate from Newport in the Sept. 13 GOP primary.

Steve Smith, of Charlestown, and Skip Rollins, of Newport, with 12 and 10 years in the House respectively, and first-term state Rep. Walter Spilsbury, of Charlestown, are on the ballot with Tobin Menard of Newport. The district also includes Unity.

Smith, the current Deputy Speaker of the House, also serves on the Transportation Committee and is chairman of the Legislative Orientation Committee. Both Smith and Spilsbury said their fiscal conservative approach in the Legislature the last session has benefited local communities.

Rollins, 69, said he again promises to represent “the average, everyday working-class person” if he returns to Concord. Menard, who previously ran on the Libertarian ticket for the Executive Council and the Legislature, said he will bring a conservative philosophy of smaller government equals better government to the House.

Reducing the statewide education property tax and collecting $100 million less from school districts in the most recent session is something all four candidates supported.

If re-elected, Smith, a realtor, said he wants to “take another swing restructuring” the way K-12 education is funded. It is a debate that has gone on for about 30 years and involved several lawsuits, some of which are still active.

“Everyone wants to argue about taxes and building aid, but the formula behind it is the problem. I’m just sick of pumping money into what everyone agrees is a broken system,” Smith, 58, said, adding that the Republicans have increased adequacy aid just about every year.

He wants to avoid the donor town problem — which has wealthier communities paying more — and get more money out of the general fund rather than the statewide education property tax, which he called a “terrible solution.”

“We need to target aid better,” Smith said. “It is not popular to say, but there are school districts in the state that don’t need more money. I don’t want to give them a dime more; they don’t need it. Newport does. Fall Mountain does. There are plenty of school districts that are not property-rich that do need the money.”

Also on Smith’s list of issues are fuel oil prices and electric bills.

“People may be mad about the price of gas, but they are scared about the price of fuel oil,” Smith said.

While an increase in the fuel assistance program — LIHEAP (low-income home energy assistance program) is helpful, Smith said he is currently working on a plan for fuel assistance and wants the income limit for the program increased. He further stated he backs the governor’s plan for one-time payments to households to help pay electric bills, which could increase 100% this fall following the approval of rate increases for power providers. Smith said the proposal could be restructured to increase the payments.

Spilsbury, 67, who is retired after a career in law, marketing and finance, said he believes his work in Concord on the Ways and Means Committee in his first term had a positive impact for his constituents, and he wants to continue that in a second term.

He cites reductions in the Business Profits Tax, the Business Enterprise Tax, the increase in the threshold for businesses to file taxes to $250,000 and the reduction in the rooms and meals tax as measures he supported.

“We trimmed here and there, and I think we did it judiciously,” Spilsbury said. “At the same time, we generated the largest surplus in history and brought the rainy day fund up to its highest level it has ever been.”

Spilsbury also noted the increase to towns in rooms and meals revenue, the increase in the highway block grant to towns and cities and the reduction in the statewide property tax.

“These actions really make a difference when it comes to alleviating the burden we tend to pile on the local taxpayer,” Spilsbury said. “This, to me, is sound stewardship of state tax revenue and appropriate sharing with towns.”

If re-elected, Spilsbury said he will again be fiscally conservative “but very open-minded on policy and the purpose of government.”

“I believe in keeping government limited, but I am not anti-government as long as government is being managed prudently and in a fiscally responsible way,” he said. “Public service is there to make sure taxpayers and citizens get the best treatment from their government that the tax dollars pay for.”

Rollins, who serves on the State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee, has a basic approach to his role in the House and one that he will continue if sent back to Concord.

“I am for the people,” Rollins said. “I try to represent the average everyday, working-class person when I vote.”

He backs recent gun legislation and was opposed to expanding background checks and enforcing federal action on firearms.

“I’m very strong on the Second Amendment,” Rollins said. “We passed bills protecting the right to keep and bear arms. If we take that right away from everyone, we will be much more vulnerable.”

On abortion Rollins, who works at LaValley Building Supply, said he supports the N.H. law as it now stands, up to 24 weeks, but beyond that (the third trimester) he called the procedure to terminate a pregnancy “barbaric.”

On other issues that have been in the national conversation, Rollins said he strongly supports police and is against any “defund the police” effort.

“The police play an important role in protecting the community,” he said.

He also opposes the teaching of critical race theory in schools, which has been termed divisive concepts related to race and gender in New Hampshire and was banned by the Republican Legislature in the last session as part of the approved budget.

Menard, 44, works at Fuji Film in Lebanon. Though he ran previously as a Libertarian, he said he “leans” conservative and followed the advice of those who said his chances on the ballot would improve if he ran as a Republican.

“I am not really political, but I complained a lot about politicians,” Menard said. “So if I complain, then I should try to do a better job.”

He said that smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation would be guiding principles for him in Concord.

“If I get elected, my biggest thing is smaller government,” he said. “I don’t think it does a good job on most things. Government should be more oversight, not controlling who does what.”

Menard said he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and school choice.

“I do believe in money following the kid is the right direction,” he said. “In that way, parents get to decide where the best place for their child to learn is.”

In speaking with voters, Menard said energy prices, inflation and the cost of heating oil this winter are all concerns he hears.

For energy, Menard says in the long term New Hampshire should look closer at nuclear.

“Modern nuclear is a good way to go,” he said. “In that way, we would be less dependent on pipelines coming from other states.”

The three candidates to emerge from the GOP primary will face Democrats Virginia Irwin, of Newport, a former state representative; John Streeter, of Charlestown, who previously ran for the House; and Linda Wadensten, of Newport, a former Newport School Board chairwoman.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.

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