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Hopefuls Spar in N.H. House Races

  • Denny Ruprecht

  • Sue Ford

  • Ben Hight



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Haverhill — A pair of Republican newcomers are hoping to retain the party’s control over two Haverhill-area seats in the New Hampshire House, as Democrats look to reverse losses from 2016.

State Rep. David Binford, R-Bath, is stepping down after a single term in office, leaving the Grafton 15 House seat to be contested by Republican Rebecca Bailey and Democrat Denny Ruprecht.

Meanwhile, Democrat Sue Ford is hoping to retake the Grafton 3 seat she lost two years ago to Rep. Vicki Schwaegler, R-Orford. Schwaegler lost a primary last month to Ben Hight, who will represent Republicans on the ballot next week.

Ruprecht, 19, is a recent Woodsville High School graduate who lives in Landaff, one of eight communities that comprise the Grafton 15 House district.

It’s a floterial district that also includes the towns of Haverhill, Orford, Piermont, Bath, Benton, Easton and Warren.

Ruprecht said he’s running to “bring civility back to public office,” and promised to work with lawmakers from both parties to solve common problems facing the North Country, including rising education costs.

“I’m focused on finding a way to lower our property taxes while also insuring our schools are funded well enough and our children receive a quality education,” he said during an interview last week.

His opponent is Bailey, a Piermont resident who owns a social media management company. Bailey also has experience in Republican politics, and recently led North Springfield, Vt., Republican Keith Stern’s unsuccessful gubernatorial run against Vermont Gov. Phil Scott.

Repeated attempts to interview Bailey in the past week were unsuccessful.

On her campaign website, Bailey said she’s running to push back against “the top-down decision-making” that is prevalent in politics.

“We need to make improvements to our economy by reducing regulations, lowering the tax burden placed on job-creating businesses and improving our infrastructure,” she said on the site.

The two candidates have different views on several issues, including how the state should administer health care and pay for education.

Ruprecht said he’s in favor of New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion, which provides health insurance to about 50,000 Granite Staters under the Affordable Care Act. The program also has been used to help those in recovery, he added, referring to the state’s opioid crisis.

Bailey, however, criticized government intervention in health care, saying on her website that the system has been “harmed by unconstitutional government intrusion.”

Ruprecht also is calling for the state to devote more money to education, and is advocating for surpluses in the statewide property tax to be used to help “property-poor” towns contain costs.

He is in favor of some school choice measures, too, such as the so-called “Croydon bill,” which now allows some school districts to use taxpayer money to send students to private schools.

“I support school choice in the form of towns sending students elsewhere if they do not have a public school in town that serves all grade levels, and I think that this is where the Croydon bill comes in,” he said in an email last week.

But Ruprecht said he wouldn’t vote for any bill that uses tax dollars to pay for private, religious or home schooling when a public school is available to students. Such efforts to create a voucher system in New Hampshire would divert too much money from the public school system, he said.

Bailey said online that she’s for school choice, including a voucher program.

“ ... Vouchers or school savings plans allow parents with less expendable income to make what they feel is the right educational choice for their offspring,” her campaign website said.

Ruprecht said he is supportive of the biomass industry as well, and would have supported a law that requires energy companies to purchase electricity from New Hampshire’s six independent biomass plants.

Grafton 3 District

Ford, a former teacher and school administrator from Easton, said she plans to focus on health care and her opposition to the proposed Northern Pass transmission project in an attempt to regain the Grafton 3 district, which she held from 2002 to 2012, and again from 2014 to 2016.

The floterial district includes the towns of Orford, Piermont, Bath, Benton, Easton, Landaff and Warren.

“The big issue (in New Hampshire) is the big issue across the country, and that’s health care,” said Ford, who went on to say that people are afraid of losing their coverage.

Ford said she supports Medicaid expansion, which she characterized as a “huge bonus to the people of New Hampshire” and useful tool to combat the opioid epidemic.

She’s facing Hight, a Republican, an Army veteran and a former truck driver from Warren. Hight, 43, said he’s focusing on the need to reduce energy and education costs.

“My goal is to get the energy market closer to the free market,” he said.

Hight said he supports the biomass law, but only because it expires in three years. Until then, he said, lawmakers should look to assist the industry without providing it with a “subsidy.”

“I don’t think any company should be subsidized. It’s a waste of tax dollars, in my opinion,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ford, a Democrat, was supporting the biomass legislation at the Statehouse when lawmakers voted to pass the measure, overriding a veto from Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

The veto “just didn’t make sense to me in terms of the economic health of the state of New Hampshire,” she said, adding the state should look to support home solar projects, as well.

The two also differ on education spending, with Ford proposing the creation of a commission that could craft a new funding formula, one that provides more money to struggling towns.

“I know that the adequacy money is low,” she said, referring to the state contribution to education costs. “I think, with the declining enrollment, there are quite a few towns and cities that will be going underwater as we move off stabilization grants.”

But Hight said he’s supportive of calls to expand school choice, rather than spend more on public schools.

“I keep hearing, ‘We need more money, we need more money, we need more money,’ ” he said. “But I’m not sure money is the answer. It’s a question of spending the money we have wisely.”

Hight went on to say that administrative costs at schools often are too high, and he called proposals to reconfigure the statewide property tax “socialism.”

He said he also has “mixed feelings” on Medicaid expansion. While it does provide care to those suffering from addiction, he said, it isn’t the sole solution to the opioid crisis.

In the Grafton 4 House district, which represents the town of Haverhill, Republican Rep. Rick Ladd is running unopposed for a sixth term. Ladd is the chairman of the House Education Committee.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com.