Sullivan County Candidates Detail Plans

  • Steven Smith

  • John Tuthill

  • Thomas Laware

  • Kendra Yakovleff

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/26/2016 12:12:40 AM
Modified: 10/26/2016 12:12:47 AM

Charlestown — Voters in Charlestown will decide two contested elections for the New Hampshire House.

In the Sullivan 11 district, state Rep. Steven Smith, R-Charlestown, is seeking his fourth term in the House against a challenge from Acworth, N.H., Democrat John Tuthill, who served one term as an independent from 1998 to 2000.

In addition to Charlestown and Acworth, the district includes Goshen, Langdon, Lempster and Washington.

Tuthill, 62, said he was inspired to get back into the political fray by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential run.

“Bernie put out a call and that weighed in (on my decision),” the retired Tuthill said.

Tuthill is not on the fence when it comes to supporting Medicaid expansion and Planned Parenthood funding — he fully backs both — nor does he shy away from what he believes is the direction New Hampshire needs to go in when it comes to taxes and having enough money for education, health care and more.

“I am not bashful in saying I support an income tax,” Tuthill said. “I think the time has come and gone for the pledge (against broad-based taxes). I really do think it is where we have to go to have less reliance on the property tax.”

Smith, 52, is a software tester and chairman of the Sullivan County Republican Committee. As he looks to serve another two-year term, Smith said the development of a “personal rapid transit” system for the rural areas of the state is something he thinks deserves more consideration.

“I would like to see the state consider developing that. Bus and rail transportation is 100-year-old technology,” Smith said. “We are still fighting for money for them, but they are just big money pits.”

Such privately run transit, which typically can carry four to eight people, could be installed along public highway right of ways, Smith said. A few years ago, he said, a company was willing to come in and set up a prototype, but it was looking for the Legislature to create a regulatory package of rules for operation. It did not seek state money, but nevertheless, no action was taken by lawmakers, Smith said.

Also in the next session, Smith plans to reintroduce the same bill that failed in the last session prohibiting lawmakers from taking money that was raised for a specific purpose and diverting it for something else. He wants a constitutional amendment, which would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override the legislation.

“It will probably lose again, but I will make them keep saying we are not going to be honest with where we spend your money,” Smith said.

Smith supported Medicaid expansion in the last session because the bill was written to require health care providers and insurance companies to pay the small percentage of costs that will no longer come from the federal government beginning in 2017.

“There are no tax dollars and the providers say their costs will drop because they will have less uncompensated care,” Smith said. “They get a net gain. It was easy for me (to vote for it). It is a brilliant idea. We (the state) don’t have any risk.”

“If the share from the hospitals and insurance companies goes away in two years, when the program comes up for reauthorization, the program goes away. It self-destructs,” Smith said.

On Planned Parenthood funding, Smith said giving the money to one organization is the wrong approach as other clinics provide the same services across the state.

“Don’t fund one business; fund the service, and let people go wherever they want,” he said.

He also opposes the concealed-carry permit requirement that is on the books in New Hampshire.

“Vermont doesn’t have one and it seems to work well. No doom and gloom there (with gun violence). I really don’t see the point. Criminals are not likely to go to the police station to get a permit,” Smith said.

Tuthill ran three times between 1996 and 2000, winning once as an independent. His focus in the next session would be pushing for a broad-based tax and addressing energy policy that shifts away from fossil fuels in light of climate change. He would like to see New Hampshire invest more in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reduce carbon emissions.

Concealed-carry permits are a difficult issue in rural New England, Tuthill said, but seem like a “good idea. We know who has weapons.”

He also supports Medicaid expansion — “it is absolutely critically important that we make it permanent. It will save money in the long run.”

Tuthill said Planned Parenthood funding has become “highly politicized” over the abortion issue, overlooking the other services.

“A woman’s right to choose is between her and her doctor. I think Planned Parenthood provides very good services to people who wouldn’t have access to them,” Tuthill said.

Sullivan 8

State Rep. Thomas Laware, a retired UPS driver, is seeking his second consecutive term in the House against political newcomer Kendra Yakovleff in the single-town district of Charlestown.

The Republican Laware was first elected in 2010, lost in 2012 and won the seat back two years ago. His biggest concern in the next session is helping the town’s major employer, Whelen Engineering, lower its electric costs.

“If possible, I would like to get legislation passed to bring down utility rates. That is my priority for the next two years: get a lower utility rate for Whelen,” he said.

Yakovleff, 64, is a retired counselor and social worker who worked for the state and also was a case manager for Crotched Mountain. Before retiring, she was a counselor for people addicted to opioids. She has lived in Charlestown for 38 years; this is her first run for elected office.

“It is the opioid problem,” Yakovleff said about her priority if elected. “It is just huge and we need more money to combat it.”

Yakovleff favors opening more clinics and tying that in with more mental health services.

“Many have mental health issues and there is a long wait list to see a therapist, so I would like to see clinics have both. I think that would help,” she said.

Yakovleff supports Medicaid expansion, but wants to study the issue more before deciding how the state should pay for any share it may eventually have to shoulder. She holds a similar view of funding adequacy aid for K-12 schools.

“That is one of reason I am running, to learn how to get those funds,” she said.

Laware said he understands the need for more revenue but does not want to further tax residents with broad-based taxes.

“I have supported casinos: One or two in the busy part of the state to tap into that money going south,” Laware said.

Yakovleff supports the concealed-carry permit law and expanded background checks for firearms. “I am not against guns, but personally I don’t see the need,” she said.

Laware calls himself a “pretty strong” supporter of the Second Amendment and while he believes the concealed-carry permit law is a good one, he said current gun laws don’t need expanding.

“I believe the background checks are sufficient now,” Laware said. “We just need to enforce the laws we have. The states with the most regulation and strictest gun laws have the highest rates of violence.”

Laware takes an anti-abortion stance when it comes to state funding of Planned Parenthood, but does agree the organization provides some necessary services.

“Unless you can separate abortion from the other women services, I can’t support government subsidies for that,” Laware said.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood funding say state funds are not used to pay for abortions.

Yakovleff echoes what supporters of state funds for Planned Parenthood have traditionally said. “They do help women with their health issues,” she said.

In Sullivan 7, representing Acworth, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster and Washington in the southern and eastern part of the county, state Rep. Jim Grenier, R-Lempster, is looking to retain his seat against Melanie Bell, a Goshen Democrat.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at

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