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Republican Challenges Sunapee Incumbent

  • Sue Gottling

  • Ian Underwood

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/25/2016 12:25:30 AM
Modified: 10/25/2016 9:42:07 AM

Sunapee — The race for the Sullivan 2 district representing Sunapee and Croydon in the state House of Representatives is pitting a Democratic lawmaker against a Republican who moved to a Croydon farm about a decade ago as part of the Free State Project.

State Rep. Sue Gottling, D-Sunapee, is seeking a fifth term in the House. She was first elected in 2006, and served two terms before being defeated in 2010. She regained the seat in 2012 and was re-elected in 2014.

Gottling is a Sunapee Selectboard member retired educator.

Her opponent on Nov. 8 is Ian Underwood, 55, an online educator from Croydon.

Gottling holds many of the traditional Democratic positions on issues such as health care spending and support for state contracts with Planned Parenthood. She voted in favor of the state’s Medicaid expansion, which added 50,000 patients to the program’s rolls as part of the Affordable Care Act.

“People with better health are better at their jobs and less drain on hospitals,” Gottling said. “It is a benefit in the long run because they are less of a drain on the health care system.”

On firearms, she supports the state’s license requirement to carry a concealed weapon and voted to uphold a veto by the governor of a bill that would have eliminated that requirement.

“It is easy to get, and if it stops one wrong person from carrying a concealed weapon, it is worth it,” she said. “Why try to fix what is working?”

If re-elected, Gottling would like to work on getting more aid, especially in light of the state’s surplus of an estimated $130 million, for the university system, so more of the state’s high school graduates could afford “to go to school in New Hampshire.”

For Underwood, who moved to Bardo Farm in Croydon in 2007 with his wife and another couple, the issue that needs to be addressed in Concord is not about funding Medicaid expansion and education or whether gun owners need should have a permit to carry a concealed weapon; to him, the problem goes to the core of state governance.

“I’m not looking at short-term particulars,” Underwood said. “In almost every issue, legislation should be based on the (state) Constitution. My concern is that we are galloping away from any resemblance of the rule of law.

“I don’t know the answers (to Medicaid expansion, gun laws, education funding), but I do know they are doing it the wrong way.”

He equated the typical legislative exercise to worrying about the menu on the Titanic while “ignoring the gaping hole in the hull.”

“There may be some airtight compartments to keep us afloat, but we can’t keep going in this direction,” Underwood said.

Underwood said lawmakers have assumed powers not delineated in the Constitution, and then the courts and the Attorney General’s Office gets involved.

“The Legislature says one thing, the courts something else. It is not about what problems we solve or who, where and how we do it but whether we can do it under the Constitution,” Underwood said. “The whole system is broken. If we don’t have the power, then let’s change the Constitution.”

As an example, Underwood referred to the ongoing fight between the Croydon School Board and the state over the use of school district funds to pay tuition at a private school in Newport.

Underwood’s wife, Jody, is one of the three School Board members who disagreed with the position of the state Department of Education that tax dollars can only be spent on public schools and defied the DOE order until the court stepped in.

The School Board lost in a Sullivan County Superior Court ruling before school began this year and was ordered to stop using tax dollars for tuition to the Montessori School in Newport for six students.

The case has been appealed to the state Supreme Court, but the tuition paid for the first half of this year does not have to be refunded.

Underwood said it was a case of the courts making law because the Legislature said one thing, the governor something else and the Attorney General’s Office something different as well, he said, referring to the passage last session of a bill that would have allowed Croydon to continue using tax dollars for private school tuition.

It was vetoed by Gov. Maggie Hassan.

“The courts cannot make law. They are forbidden to do so but do it anyway,” Underwood said.

If he goes to Concord in January, he promises to continually ask, “Where do we get the power?”

“I will probably be ignored, but I will keep asking,” Underwood said.

Gottling was a co-sponsor of the bill to let Croydon to continue with its school choice decision.

“It would give Croydon students the same opportunity that students who attend St. Johnsbury Academy or Pinkerton Academy (using tax dollars) have. They would have to follow the court ruling on adequacy. It is not total free choice.

“That would wreck the public schools and nobody wants that,” Gottling said.

Sunapee and Croydon are also represented in the Sullivan 9 floterial district, where Linda Tanner, D-Sunapee, is facing Spec Bowers, R-Sunapee. Both are former lawmakers.

A story on that race will appear in a future Valley News.

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

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