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Former Claremont mayor takes on incumbent in Senate District 8 race

  • Charlene Lovett (Courtesy photograph)

  • Ruth Ward (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/25/2022 9:51:36 PM
Modified: 10/25/2022 9:51:36 PM

In her campaign to defeat three-term incumbent state Sen. Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard, in the Nov. 8 election, former Claremont mayor and Democratic candidate Charlene Lovett said her time on the Claremont City Council and School Board have given her unique insights.

“I have worked at different levels of government, and it is a lot different when you understand the impact of state decisions on local communities rather than going into the New Hampshire Legislature without that experience,” said Lovett, who served 22 years in the Army before retiring in 2003.

Ward touts her six years in the state Senate as proof she responds to her constituents’ needs and understands the issues communities are facing, promising more of the same if reelected. She was co-sponsor on Senate bill 381, which was signed into law this year and will establish the office of advocacy for families with children with special education needs.

“I am very proud of what I have done for the schools,” she said.

Senate District 8 touches four counties — Cheshire, Hillsborough, Merrimack and 10 communities in Sullivan County, including Charlestown, Claremont, Croydon, Newport, Sunapee and Unity.

Education funding, energy costs and reproductive rights are the top three issues that Lovett said voters have been telling her.

“I think government should be out of it completely,” Lovett said about the issue of abortion in New Hampshire. “My reason is that these are very personal matters and decisions regarding reproductive rights (and) should be between the people involved and their health care providers. (If I am elected) I would take action to codify into law reproductive rights.”

Ward, 85, is a retired nurse practitioner, who believes the current law passed last year, which banned abortion in the state after 24 weeks of gestation, is acceptable to most residents.

“As far as I am concerned, it is OK for now because by 24 weeks you have a fetus almost able to survive outside the womb,” Ward said. “Up to 24 weeks is enough time to decide. And why wait? The sooner, the safer and easier it is.”

On the question of resolving the longstanding problem of K-12 education funding, with two active lawsuits against the state currently making their way through the courts, Ward said New Hampshire will never support a broad-based tax and promises to work toward a solution in the next session. But she also cited the Extraordinary Needs Grant, the increase in revenue to cities and towns from the meals and rooms tax and highway block grant and the return of $100 million in the statewide education property tax to local school districts as examples of how the Legislature is helping ease the property tax burden.

“In my personal opinion, I think we need to take a good look at each school and how they are functioning,” Ward said. “We need to see where we can make changes such as class size and curriculum.”

Lovett, 59, is a former Republican, who served one term in the New Hampshire House and was Claremont’s mayor from 2016-21. She changed parties earlier this year, and one of the main reasons she cited was the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by people loyal to former President Donald Trump who believed his claims that the election was stolen, she said in an interview with the Valley News in June.

On education funding, Lovett emphasized that she is not advocating for a broad-based tax, but she said she does hear that from voters often.

“When I knock on doors, people are saying, ‘Why don’t you institute a sales tax or income tax?’ ” Lovett said. “I think we have gotten to critical mass when it comes to the property tax. Unless we find another way to reduce the pressure on property owners, they are telling me they are OK with a broad-based tax.”

She said older voters who have paid off their mortgages and are on fixed incomes wonder how they will pay property tax increases, and new home buyers are kept out of the market because with the mortgage and taxes, a home purchase is not feasible.

“There has to be a better partnership in education funding,” Lovett said, referring to state-level funding for schools. “New Hampshire is last in the nation in public school funding, just 28%. I am thinking 50-50 between the state and local.”

She also supports school choice but opposes Education Freedom Accounts, a voucher-like system rolled out last school year that allows a student’s state adequacy grant to pay for tuition or school materials outside the public school system.

“Until they resolve the public education funding issue, they can’t sacrifice public education in the name of school choice,” she said.

Lovett, an advocate for expanding net metering as a way to encourage the development of more renewable energy, said Republicans and Gov. Sununu have put up barriers on entities that could generate renewable energy and help the state transition to those sources.

“That is unnecessary, and it is not by accident we have the second-highest electric rate in the country,” Lovett said. Vermont and Massachusetts both get much more of their energy from renewables than New Hampshire does, she said.

Ward understands that renewables could become a source for New Hampshire’s energy needs but as of now, they simply won’t meet the state’s need.

“You need a backup plan,” Ward said. “Maybe be another nuclear plant. It would provide clean energy.”

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


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