N.H. Republicans Eye Dist. 2 Senate Seat

  • Former three-term state Rep. Bob Giuda, of Warren, N.H., at a Republican candidates' forum in Nashua, N.H., on Aug. 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/5/2016 12:26:17 AM
Modified: 4/5/2016 12:19:56 PM

West Lebanon — Two conservative Republicans hoping to succeed Jeanie Forrester in the New Hampshire Senate oppose Medicaid expansion, and say fighting the state’s heroin epidemic and keeping a close eye on the budget will be their primary focus in the upcoming race.

Both state Rep. Brian Gallagher and Bob Giuda, a former state representative, announced their intention to run for Forrester’s District 2 Senate seat after the three-term Meredith Republican kicked off her campaign for governor last week.

The district includes the Upper Valley towns of Haverhill, Piermont, Orford, Dorchester, Grafton and Orange. It stretches south to Wilmont and Tilton, and east to Meredith.

Giuda, 64, is a former Marine fighter pilot and three-term state representative and works as an airline pilot. The Warren resident will soon be retiring, freeing up time to work on state legislative issues.

“I served in public office for most of the last 20 years” in the House, as a school district moderator and selectman, Giuda said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

“I think that one of the problems that we see in our state is that there are in many ways two states of New Hampshire,” Giuda said. “There is the North Country and then there’s southern New Hampshire.”

Although the Seacoast, Manchester and Nashua all have larger populations and a more prosperous economy, Giuda said, that’s not where all state funding should be focused. Instead, he said, transportation and infrastructure investment could help more rural communities catch up.

He chided the state’s current transportation planning for not being clear enough and said the state cannot shy away from fossil fuels if it hopes to secure long-term energy stability.

“We have political interests in the state that don’t want coal. They don’t want nuclear; they don’t want hydro; they don’t want fossil fuels,” Giuda said. “In the present form, the energy makeup of our state is suffering.”

The state doesn’t have enough natural gas pipelines, he said, and should take a 20-year look into how it can make energy more affordable and abundant.

Like Forrester, Giuda said, he would have also opposed the state’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The Senate approved legislation last week allowing almost 50,000 people to continue receiving health care under the expansion for another two years.

Under the bill, federal dollars are used to put people in need on private insurance plans, and those hoping to receive aid would also be required to work or volunteer for 30 hours a week. Since the federal government hasn’t approved a work requirement in any other state, the bill’s sponsors wrote in a provision that allows the program to continue if the requirement is rejected, The Associated Press reported.

“I would not have voted for it in its present form,” Giuda said, maintaining that expanding Medicaid is an “open-ended liability for the state.”

Giuda also ran for the U.S. House in 2010 and drew criticism when he reportedly compared same-sex marriage to bestiality. He later walked back those comments and now says that since same-sex marriage is established law, it won’t be a legislative priority.

Looking at New Hampshire’s heroin epidemic, Giuda said, following Portugal’s model could help addicts and their families. The European nation decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001, and those caught using them are now given a fine or referred to treatment, rather than serving prison sentences.

Drug overdose deaths in Portugal are now the second lowest in the European Union and drug use is also down, according to The Washington Post. But not all experts agree that Portugal’s decriminalization policy is to blame for the good news.

Giuda said following Portugal’s lead will free up the state’s justice system and also keep young offenders from being introduced to the influence of others in jail. Although he takes a soft stance on users, Giuda takes a hard line on dealers.

“I believe that a person that is dealing drugs and trafficking in narcotics threatens the lives of our children and adults who use,” he said. So, Giuda would support mandatory life sentences for those caught dealing hard drugs.

“You don’t do war with addicts, you do war against the providers of these toxins, really,” Giuda said.

Gallagher, a Sanbornton resident, has 30 years of experience in public finance beginning with the state’s Budget Finance Office before working in the court system’s administrative office and working as a business manager for three New Hampshire school districts.

“We, as citizens in all the communities, have to make sure that any kind of finance plan that the state puts forth is solid and fits the need of citizens,” he said.

Gallagher said he would be a financial watchdog, making sure each proposed budget has “solid revenues” and serves the critical needs of families and seniors.

As a member of Belknap County’s Executive Committee, Gallagher said he’s also worked to fight the heroin epidemic, cooperating with the County Commission to support more recovery and rehabilitation programs in the jail.

“All of us at the county level and certainly at the state level are overwhelmed by this opioid crisis,” said Gallagher. “It’s a terrible thing.”

Like both Forrester and Giuda, he also opposes the Medicaid expansion over concerns that the program is financially unsustainable.

“History has shown that the federal government has not always met its obligations and mandates that it has sent to the states in the long term,” he said. “History is a good teacher and we need to be careful.”

Since the expansion legislation also relies on the state’s health care institutions and insurance companies to contribute, Gallagher is worried about their financial health, especially after Lakes Regional General Hospital announced more than 50 layoffs in Laconia and Franklin last week.

“No one’s been able to guarantee that these monies will be 100 percent available,” he said.

Gallagher, who was first elected to the house in 2014, became well-known this year when he sponsored the so-called “nipple bill” that would ban toplessness by women in public spaces. The bill was voted down in the House last month.

He said the legislation was driven from constituent complaints after topless protests in the Lakes Region over the summer, and he supports similar legislation in the Senate.

“The whole point was not to challenge women in their rights. It was to bring up the point that we are a society made up of many folks,” Gallagher said. “This behavior in public should not be imposed on all of our citizens.”

Although no Democrats have formally entered the District 2 race, among the people said to be considering a run include former state Sens. Deb Reynolds, Wayne King and Kathy Sgambati; Grafton County Commissioner Martha Richards; former candidate Bob Lamb; and former Common Man restaurateur Jason Lyon.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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