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Clear Contrast in N.H. Senate Race

  • Bill Bolton (Courtesy photograph)

  • Rep. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, is a candidate for the District 2 state senate seat. (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, September 23, 2018

Haverhill — Voters in the Mascoma Valley and Haverhill area will be asked this November to choose between two candidates with markedly different stances on gun control, health care and education to represent them in the New Hampshire Senate.

State Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, is being challenged by Plymouth Selectboard Chairman Bill Bolton, a Democrat, for the seat representing District 2, which runs from the Lakes Region into Grafton County and includes the towns of Haverhill, Piermont, Orford, Dorchester, Grafton and Orange.

Giuda, a retired airline and Marine fighter pilot, said he’s running for a second term to continue advocating for legislative efforts that aim to help Granite Staters, such as those seeking to alleviate the opioid epidemic, increase mental health programs and better fund public schools.

Giuda, 66, said he’s in favor of amending the state’s school funding formula to better serve property-poor communities that are often hardest hit by increasing education costs. He also hopes to support legislation that would prevent further decreases to state stabilization grants, which were designed to shield those towns by demographic changes and have decreased annually by 4 percent.

Bolton, 65, decided to challenge Giuda to help expand broadband to the Granite State’s rural communities.

As a former state registrar and director of the Division of Vital Records Administration, Bolton helped design software and implement New Hampshire’s first municipal broadband network so that towns could better share information. He then took the project national and worked it with other states.

But there are still pockets where people cannot get reliable internet or cell service, and Bolton said it’s now time to complete a statewide rollout.

Like his opponent, Bolton’s platform includes protecting public schools from declining state aid.

Looking back on the last two years, Giuda said he’s most proud of bills intended to level the playing field between people and local government.

For instance, he sponsored a bill that would give the state greater powers to regulate agritourism, rather than local zoning and planning boards. He also pushed for a measure that sought to create a right-to-know ombudsman, who would hear appeals from people denied access to government documents.

Meanwhile, Bolton said he intends to support legalizing marijuana, if elected to the Senate.

Legislation seeking to legalize possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana and allow people over 21 years of age to cultivate up to three cannabis plants in their homes failed to pass in the House this year amid concerns from the state’s law enforcement community. However, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine and Quebec all have voted to legalize recreational marijuana use.

“We’re hurting for revenue, obviously, and we’re being surrounded by states with legalized marijuana,” Bolton said. “I don’t think we need to be a bastion of no marijuana legalization, so I would allow that to happen. I would vote for that.”

Giuda indicated in January that he would oppose such a move, saying the bill could prevent economic growth by scaring away business.

“Jobs are what is going to grow the economy. Pot is not,” Giuda said at the time.

The two candidates also disagree on the state’s Medicaid expansion, which provides health insurance to about 50,000 Granite Staters and was approved with bipartisan support this spring.

Bolton said the program is instrumental in getting low-income residents needed health care. It assists those seeking treatment, and helps to alleviate the opioid crisis, he said.

“Medicaid itself is so useful as far as treatment for opiate addicted behaviors,” he said. “Without it, we would be even more hard-pressed with the opioid epidemic.”

Meanwhile, Giuda opposed extending the program, partially because of concerns that work requirements included in the bill would be denied by the federal government.

Federal authorities in May — days prior to the measure’s final passage — approved a mandate that Medicaid recipients in the state between the ages of 19 and 64 need to participate in at least 100 hours a month of “community engagement activities.” That requirement can include employment, community service and job training.

Giuda said another worry is that while Medicaid helps some, many other Granite Staters still face high health care costs.

“We’ve got ‘target fixation,’ I would call it, on making sure that the poor have health insurance at almost no cost,” Giuda said, adding the middle class continues to struggle with high deductibles and premiums.

The two candidates also diverge on gun control issues, particularly on recent legislation that would allow local towns and school districts to enact their own firearms regulations.

While the federal Gun-Free School Zones Act bans weapons within 1,000 feet of a school, municipal police cannot enforce the federal law, according to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

That’s because state law gives the New Hampshire Legislature sole responsibility to regulate firearms, leaving school boards and municipal officials powerless on the issue, although New Hampshire schools can prohibit students and teachers from bringing firearms on school property.

“Every shooting incident in the country that involves school kids has been accomplished in a declared, published gun-free zone,” said Giuda, who opposed efforts this year to amend the law. “A person who is attempting to murder innocent children and commit the act of murder is probably not going to pay much attention to a sign or placard that says ‘Don’t bring a weapon here.’ ”

Giuda, who sits on the Warren School Board, said the current law also creates a uniformity to gun regulations in New Hampshire, and protects gunowners traveling from town to town who could accidentally violate am individual community’s gun ordinance.

But Bolton said he would support efforts to change the law, adding that Plymouth has a school policy preventing guns on campus. He would also advocate for right-based ordinances that could allow towns to better regulate utilities, and oppose projects such as Northern Pass and wind farms.

Both of the candidates support the Legislature’s recent push to pass a biomass bill that supporters argue will save jobs within the forestry industry and lessen the state’s dependence on natural gas.

Both the Senate and House voted last week to override Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of the bill. Sununu, a Republican, had argued that the measure would increase power bills by mandating utilities to purchase electricity from the state’s six independent biomass plants.

“That was a real real Herculean effort by a lot of good people,” said Giuda, who co-sponsored the bill and spent the summer making calls and going to events to lobby for the override.

Bolton agreed, saying the governor made a mistake vetoing the legislation.

“I fully support overriding that veto and I’m very pleased at the outcome,” he said.

The two candidates took opposing stances on school choice, and an unsuccessful bill that this year sought to create a voucher program.

The legislation would have allowed low-income parents to withdraw their child from a public school and use state adequacy money to fund a private or parochial education. It was ultimately killed in the House.

Bolton, whose four children went to public school in New Hampshire, said he would oppose such a measure, adding that public money shouldn’t be used to find private schools.

“I don’t think that we need to create a voucher program and also take money away from out pubic school system, which is now hurting anyway,” he said.

Giuda countered that private schools, in some cases, offer students an education that public ones do not.

“The traditional school model does not work for an increasing number of our kids,” he said. “If that model doesn’t work what do you do? You look to other models that do.”

The general election is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 6. Republicans currently hold a 14-10 majority in the state Senate.

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