Democrats Hope To Take Mascoma Seats

  • Steve Darrow

  • Francesca Diggs

  • Roger Dontonville

  • Ned Gordon

  • Timothy Josephson

  • Linda Luhtala

  • Vincent Paul Migliore

  • Catherine Mulholland

  • Roy Russell

  • Tejasinha Sivalingam

  • Adjutant

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/1/2018 11:56:07 PM
Modified: 11/2/2018 11:24:09 AM

Enfield — Republicans are hoping to hold onto several New Hampshire House seats representing the Mascoma Valley, though two incumbents aren’t seeking re-election. Meanwhile, Democrats are hoping to expand their influence in the area by capturing seats long held by the GOP.

Rep. Roger Dontonville, D-Enfield, is running unopposed in Grafton 10, which represents Enfield. Dontonville, a retired physical education teacher, has just completed his first term in the House.

Grafton 17

State Rep. Stephen Darrow, R-Grafton, is facing a challenge from Democrat Joshua Adjutant in the Grafton 17 race. The floterial district covers the towns of Enfield, Grafton, Alexandria, Ashland, Bridgewater and Bristol.

The 68-year-old Darrow, who is vice chairman of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee, said he hopes to revive animal cruelty legislation if he’s elected to another term, to protect towns from undue costs when animals are seized in a cruelty case.

Darrow also advocated for a new education funding formula, one that would devote more of the state’s property tax income to “property poor” towns.

“The tax bills are high and people struggle to pay them,” said Darrow, who serves on the Grafton Selectboard.

Darrow voted against a bill that sought to create “education freedom savings accounts,” which critics refer to as the “voucher bill.” The bill, which failed, would have allowed parents to use the state’s roughly $3,600 adequacy aid to be used for private schooling.

While Darrow supports school choice efforts, he said the measure would have taken from public school budgets, and could have increased taxes.

Darrow said he also favors a bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Sunuu that did away with the permitting requirement needed to obtain a concealed carry permit.

But Darrow is open to calls to increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage, which is now tied to the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

The 23-year-old Adjutant, a Marine Corps reservist and Ashland resident, is running to increase access to health care under what he calls the “Medicaid Expansion Supplementation Program.”

The program would create a public health insurance option for those making between $15,400 and $40,000 a year, offering the same coverage as the current Medicaid program. It would cost enrollees $50 a month, which is what he estimates is needed to pay operating costs.

Adjutant, who has run twice before in Grafton County, said he also would roll back the state’s business tax cuts and instead used the millions in revenue to stabilize education costs in needy towns.

He opposes efforts to create a school voucher program, saying it could create a larger disparity between wealthy and impoverished students.

Adjutant, who has a concealed carry permit, said he supports permitting and called it an important step to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. He also supports raising the minimum wage.

Grafton 9

Six people are vying for two seats representing Grafton 9, which includes the towns of Grafton, Alexandria, Bristol, Ashland and Bridgewater.

State Rep. Vincent Paul Migliore and Ned Gordon are running on the Republican ticket against Democrats Catherine Mulholland and Tejasinha Sivalingam, and Libertarians John and Rosalie Babiarz. Rep. Bob Hull, R-Grafton, is not running for re-election.

Migliore, a retired small business owner from Bridgewater, is finishing up his first term in the House, after winning a 2017 special election to replace former Rep. Jeff Shackett, R-Bridgewater.

Migliore, 67, sits on the Newfound Regional School Board, and said he thinks the state should halt reductions to stabilization grants used to help schools cope with shifting demographics. But he worried that higher taxes could result from changes to New Hampshire’s education formula. He also touted school choice as a potential way to reduce school spending.

“School choice is going to be the most attractive option for parents of special education children” he said, adding that private schools could save their public school counterparts by taking in special needs students.

Migliore said that he’s in favor of current gun laws and the current minimum wage.

Also running on the Republican ticket is Gordon, a Bristol resident who recently stepped down from a judgeship at Franklin Circuit Court. Gordon, 70, also served four terms representing a state Senate district that stretches from the Lakes Region to the North Country.

Gordon said he hopes to focus on child safety issues, and would be a watchdog against wrongdoing at the Division of Children, Youth and Families, which has been beset by several scandals in recent years.

“I believe that the state needs to be held accountable,” said Gordon, who once led the state’s Model Court Project, an effort to develop best practices for child abuse and neglect cases.

He also would work to combat the state’s opioid crisis, and said more money should be devoted to prevention programs that could keep people from needing recovery services.

Gordon said it’s time to take another look at the state’s education funding formula. Too many communities are lacking the funding need to educate their students, he said.

Gordon was conflicted on the concealed carry law, saying he’s seen people in court that were rightly denied permits by local police. However, he said, those same people weren’t denied the ability to own guns or carry them openly, under the old law.

He also was hesitant to support a minimum wage increase, but did say he would consider the legislation, if elected.

On the Democratic side, Mulholland, of Grafton, is hoping to again represent the Mascoma Valley in Concord. Mulholland, 78, said she would like to increase the salary of state lawmakers to better encourage diversity at the Statehouse. New Hampshire legislators are paid $100 a year, which some people argue leaves the job to be frequently filled by older, retired people.

“I think a lot more people would run. (The Legislature) could be a lot more representative,” Mulholland said, adding she hasn’t yet determined a new salary figure.

Mulholand also would advocate for New Hampshire’s Medicaid expansion, and fight for the program to cover dental procedures, which can be costly for the state’s low-income residents.

The former lawmaker said she would favor increased education spending, saying that New Hampshire’s formula fails to “do well by our kids.” She also called for the reinstatement of state building aid.

On gun control, Mulholland said she’s in favor of licensing all firearms. The minimum wage also should be raised to $15 an hour or more, she said, adding it would be easier for employers to pay under a universal health care system.

“I think it’s obscene that New Hampshire’s minimum wage matches the federal minimum wage,” Mulholland said.

Also running is Sivalingam, a Ph.D. student and former Ashland Selectboard member.

“I’m a little bit of a unique Democrat,” said the 39-year-old Sivalingam, who went to on to tout his 93 percent approval rating from the National Rifle Association.

“I’m seeking to support, possibly sponsor, a constitutional amendment that would allow for local self governance in issues that affect a community’s health, safety and welfare,” he said, adding such a measure would allow towns to prevent projects such as the proposed Northern Pass transmission line.

When asked about education funding, Sivalingam referred a reporter to his campaign website, where he advocates for a state- or county-run system that could reduce costs and standardize schooling.

Sivalingam also declined to answer questions on the state’s concealed carry law, once again referring to his website. There, his survey to the NRA states that he supports the law and opposes licensing of firearms.

On minimum wage, Sivalingam said he supports “rise up economics,” or efforts to encourage unionization. He also supports the state’s Medicaid expansion.

On the Libertarian ticket are John and Rosalie Babiarz, who live in Grafton.

John Babiarz, 62, has run two unsuccessful campaigns for governor and serves as chief of the Grafton Volunteer Fire Department. He said school choice is a major focus of his campaign for the House.

“I think parents need options,” he said, adding that the public school system doesn’t always serve the needs of New Hampshire’s children.

John Babiarz said he also would fight to reform the state’s judicial system, adding there’s too many people being incarcerated and too few rehabilitation programs available to inmates.

John Babiarz acknowledged that school costs are mounting, and that the state’s education formula likely needs to change. However, he opposes additional funding, saying more money isn’t needed to “hide the mistakes” made by schools.

He supports the concealed carry law, arguing that it allows people to better defend themselves.

He also would oppose an increase in the minimum wage, saying the free market should decide an employee’s salary.

“There should not be any minimum wage laws,” John Babiarz said. “If you want good help and good employees, you’re going to need to pay them.”

Rosalie Babiarz holds similar views, and said she would fight to protect school choice and the Second Amendment while in Concord.

However, she is not in favor of a voucher program, and argued that the responsibility to pay for a private school education should fall to parents.

Rosalie Babiarz also said she would like to keep school funding “as low as possible.”

“I do know we need to spend money to educate our students, but there is a lot that the taxpayers can’t handle,” she said.

Like her husband, Rosalie Babiarz opposes a minimum wage and supports the concealed carry law.

Grafton 11

Rep. Timothy Josephson, D-Canaan, is defending his Grafton 11 seat against Dorchester Republican Roy Russell. The seat represents Canaan, Dorchester and Wentworth.

Josephson, who recently received a masters in public administration from Norwich University, said he plans to support initiatives that will help lower property taxes.

“That means getting the state to keep their promises they’ve made in the past,” he said, adding that New Hampshire’s contributions to municipal pensions, school building aid and education spending should be increased.

Josephson, 40, said the state education funding formula should be reformed to increase payments to communities. He also opposed the concealed carry law and is in favor of raising the minimum wage.

Russell, a retired anesthesiologist, said he hopes to promote “control of taxes and spending, smaller government and protection of our constitutional rights.”

Russell, 67, is “pro-life and pro-gun” and said he supports #Blexit, a movement promoted by rapper Kayne West that calls for African-Americans to leave the Democratic Party. Russell is white.

Russell said he would like to see school costs reduced, mainly by cutting administrative costs and doing away with superintendent services.

“School boards can do it and they can probably do it cheaper,” he said. Russell supports the concealed carry law and opposes a minimum wage increase.

Other Mascoma Districts

The race for Grafton 16 will see two Rumney residents competing to replace Rep. Duane Brown, R-Wentworth, who is not seeking another term in the floterial district representing Canaan, Dorchester, Ellsworth, Rumney, Orange, Thornton, Wentworth and Groton. Democrat Francesca Diggs is challenging Republican Linda Luhtala.

A retired bookkeeper, Luhtala said too much money is “squandered” in education, and accused local school districts of keeping their budgets secret. “You need to look at where your money is going,” she said, while advocating for school district reports to be published in the newspaper.

Luhtala, 72, said she supports school choice efforts, which she said would bring competition and lower costs. She also praised the concealed carry law and opposed a minimum wage increase.

Meanwhile, Diggs said she would fight for stronger public schools, improved infrastructure and to protect the Medicaid expansion.

Diggs, a small business owner, said the education funding formula isn’t working, and schools in her area have struggled to make up as costs mount.

“It seems to me that there is an issue and a disparity with our poorer districts and those that are more wealthy and have a surplus of money,” she said.

Diggs, 55, said she also supports the 2nd Amendment, but doesn’t want people to be able to carry firearms on school grounds. She also advocates for a minimum wage of $12.50 an hour, but would vote for a higher number.

In Grafton 6, state Rep. Kevin Maes, D-Rumney, is defending his seat against a challenge from Republican Gail Sanborn, who also hails from Rumney. The district represents the towns of Orange, Groton, Rumney, Ellsworth and Thornton.

Tim Camerato can be reached at


State Rep. Stephen Darrow, R-Grafton, says he is open to increases in the minimum wage, which in New Hampshire is currently tied to the federal l evel of $7.25 an hour. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated his position on the issue.

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