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Plainfield-area House seats up for grabs

  • Virginia Drye (Courtesy photograph)

  • Tanya McIntire (Courtesy photograph)

  • Lee Oxenham

  • Brian Sullivan

  • Margaret Drye (Courtesy photograph)

  • Tobin Menard (Courtesy photograph)

  • Linda Tanner

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/22/2020 9:43:23 PM
Modified: 10/22/2020 9:43:13 PM

PLAINFIELD — Upper Valley voters in northern Sullivan County can expect to see familiar names on their ballots this year.

The races for the Sullivan 1 and Sullivan 9 New Hampshire House districts are a near repeat to those of 2018.

Democratic state Reps. Lee Oxenham, of Plainfield, and Brian Sullivan, of Grantham, face challenges from Republicans Virginia Drye, of Plainfield, and Tanya McIntire, of Grantham, for the two seats representing the four-town Sullivan 1 district, which also includes Cornish and Springfield.

And, as was the case two years ago, Democratic state Rep. Linda Tanner, of Georges Mills, faces a challenge from Plainfield Republican Margaret Drye for the Sullivan 9 “floterial” district, which covers Plainfield, Cornish, Croydon, Grantham, Newport, Sunapee and Unity. New to the District 9 race this year is Newport Libertarian Tobin Menard.

Sullivan 1

Oxenham, a 70-year-old former researcher at the National Academy of Sciences who finished her career at Lebanon College, said in an email that she would focus on addressing climate change should she be reelected to one of the two Sullivan 1 House seats.

“We must take action now to reduce greenhouse emissions and switch our energy production away from dirty fossil fuels to renewable energy sources,” she says on her website.

She supports raising the minimum wage to $15. New Hampshire’s minimum wage is currently tied to the federal rate of $7.25 per hour. She also supports paid family medical leave and regulating guns in schools.

Sullivan, a 62-year-old former teacher and negotiator for the New Hampshire NEA, said his primary focus is protecting workers rights, including ensuring that frontline workers have sufficient access to personal protective equipment in the COVID-19 pandemic. He currently serves as chairman of the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services committee.

“Employees must be provided with all of the PPE and other necessary accommodations to keep them safe,” he said in an email.

Sullivan supports a bill, vetoed twice by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, to create a paid family medical leave program in New Hampshire, which would be paid for through a premium of about $5 per week paid either by the employer or through a payroll deduction.

Similarly, Sullivan has backed proposals to gradually increase the state’s minimum wage, which Sununu has vetoed.

Sullivan also backs a bill, HB 1285, that would ban guns from schools with an exception for law enforcement and those authorized by the school board to carry a weapon.

McIntire, a 57-year-old member of Grantham’s Zoning Board and former substitute teacher, also said in an email that she doesn’t think guns belong in schools and that members of the public should not be allowed to enter a school while armed, although exceptions should be made for marksmanship courses.

McIntire said she supports the existing federal Family Medical Leave Act, which affords workers unpaid time off to care for others or themselves. Instead of increasing the minimum wage, McIntire said she would like the government “to create an economic environment where employers prosper enough to offer competitive wages.”

McIntire’s principal reason for running, however, is to advocate for school choice. McIntire, who in 2018 lost a bid to get the Grantham School District to pick up the tab for her son’s tuition at the Holderness School, said that she would like to see public money go to support students who earn entry to private preparatory schools.

“I believe some New Hampshire students would be happy to have these opportunities supported and maybe knowing this would help them to have hope so we do not lose them to sad and harmful choices,” she said.

Virginia Drye, a 21-year-old college junior majoring in history who works as a shop assistant, said she hopes to represent the state’s younger voters and aims to protect the “New Hampshire Advantage,” including preventing the enactment of a state income or sales tax.

Rather than increase the state’s minimum wage, Drye said wages should be left up to the market and the employer.

“A minimum wage would artificially lock New Hampshire into a price that is not flexible,” she said in an email.

Similarly, Drye said that a paid family leave program as the Legislature has previously proposed would impose a premium on wages. She would prefer to see the state enact a voluntary program as Sununu has proposed.

Unlike her fellow Republican in the Sullivan 1 race, Drye said she supports “having someone armed and alert at a school.”

Sullivan 9

Tanner and Margaret Drye, Virginia’s mother, offer two clear options for voters in the rematch for the Sullivan 9 district, which also includes Menard this year.

The 74-year-old Tanner, who serves on the House Education Committee and is a retired Kearsarge Regional High School teacher, said should she be reelected that her primary focus would be supporting the state’s public school system.

Meanwhile, Drye, a 62-year-old longtime emergency medical technician who homeschooled her children, said she wants to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. To do so, she would like to prevent any potential tax increases and reduce regulations and mandates.

Tanner supports moving to a “living wage” over time, she said in an email. She said allowing large retailers to pay low wages means that taxpayers have to provide food and housing subsidies to support workers.

Like her fellow Democrats in the Sullivan District 1 race, Tanner supports creating a paid family medical leave program, which she said, “will be essential for our recovery for families from COVID-19 and will be critical for bringing and supporting our young families.”

Tanner also has supported legislation that would restrict the carrying of firearms in schools by people who have not been approved to do so.

“When a person rings the bell to be admitted to a school or walks onto the campus, the school personnel do not know if that is a good guy with a gun or someone with the mission to cause harm and death,” she said.

Drye differed from Tanner on all points. She supports having armed citizens in schools in case they are needed. By way of example, she pointed to a shooting in a Texas church last year in which a member of the church shot and killed a gunman who had opened fire during the church service.

“Having someone armed nearby is a powerful deterrent, and, as we saw in Texas, can save lives when time is of the essence,” she said in an email.

Drye supports Sununu’s version of paid family leave, which includes a tax incentive for employers who opt into a voluntary program.

“If this is a benefit that employees truly want, employers will need to offer it to stay competitive,” she said.

Similarly, Drye said wages ought to be left to the market and to employers rather than set by legislators.

“A quick trip up and down the plazas on Route 12-A will show that most jobs are starting at more than minimum wage,” Drye said. “The market seems to be driving wages higher, yet at a rate that businesses can afford.”

Menard, an Air Force veteran, did not respond to requests for comment for this story. He has previously run unsuccessful campaigns for the Executive Council and the Newport Selectboard.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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