Democrat, Republican face off to represent Plainfield, Cornish in NH House

  • Virginia Drye (Courtesy photograph)

  • William Palmer (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/20/2022 10:06:06 PM
Modified: 10/20/2022 10:06:03 PM

Virginia Drye, a Plainfield Republican making her third attempt at winning a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, will face Democrat Dr. William Palmer, of Cornish, in the Nov. 8 election for the Sullivan District 2 House seat representing the pair’s two hometowns.

“I would stress my main goals are to protect reproductive rights and access to health care in general, keep public school dollars in public schools and push the state to adequately fund public education both for our children’s future and to keep local property taxes down,” Palmer said in an email.

Palmer, 66, works half-time as an internal medicine specialist at Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor. He previously served on the Cornish School Board for eight years, five as chairman, and also is on the Saint Gaudens Memorial Board, which partners with the National Park Service to promote the historical site’s exhibitions, concerts, fellowship and public programs.

Drye, 23, who ran unsuccessfully for the House in 2018 and 2020, is an online senior at Liberty University, a private evangelical university in Lynchburg, Va. She works as director of operations for the Newport-based Sunshine Initiative and is an elected member of the Plainfield Water District.

“I want this position,” Drye said with emphasis. ”When I interned with Executive Councilor Joe Kenney (for eight months), I learned how to help constituents with issues on a state level to help them navigate the complex system of New Hampshire government.”

The candidates differ sharply on abortion, which has become an issue for many in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to return abortion law to the states by overturning the 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade. Last year, the New Hampshire Legislature passed Fetal Life Protection Act, which bans abortion after 24 weeks of gestation, with some exceptions.

Palmer, a member and recent governor of the New Hampshire Chapter of the American College of Physicians, said he agrees with the organization’s position opposing restrictions on abortion and believes such decisions should be between a doctor and patient without state involvement.

“My belief is that any medical decision should be between the patient and doctor, and the state should have nothing to do with it,” Palmer said. “I would be looking to get rid of any restrictions on abortion (if elected.)”

Drye said the Fetal Life Protection Act reflects the intent of Roe, in that it allows the state, at some point, to protect the life of the fetus.

“The change New Hampshire made was when an abortion can happen,” she argued. “The old way (under Roe v. Wade) is still in effect from conception to six months. From a pro-life point of view, that is protection of a life that is viable. What New Hampshire did was establish what viability is which is in line with Roe v. Wade.”

Palmer also said he worries the Legislature’s 24-week ban will have an adverse effect on women’s health care in general in New Hampshire.

“Aside from abortion, it is already difficult to recruit people to work in New Hampshire, both physicians and nurses, and this is just going to make it worse,” he said.

The candidates also differ sharply on education funding and a solution to the state’s efforts to address the state Supreme Court’s 1997 ruling declaring the state is not meeting its constitutional obligation to fully fund an adequate education for students in grades K-12.

Drye, who was home-schooled, strongly backs New Hampshire’s Education Freedom Accounts, which allow eligible students to use their state-issued adequacy education grant to pay for education costs outside of the public school system, including at private and religious schools.

According to the Department of Education, nearly $14 million in the accounts have been offered to more than 3,000 students since they were established in 2021.

“We did that with the Education Freedom Accounts,” Drye said when asked if the state was fulfilling the Supreme Court decision. “So parents can decide where they could send their child for an adequate education which fulfills that constitutional need of the state to provide an adequate education.”

Keeping taxes low and keeping the state economy strong will mean more funding for schools, Drye said.

“With so much income coming into the state because of the decrease in taxes, we can return funds to schools to help with funding education,” she said.

Palmer opposes the accounts and said they serve only to siphon money away from public schools that cannot afford to lose the revenue. Cuts to the meals and rooms tax and the business taxes by Republicans don’t benefit the average resident and don’t contribute to the education fund, he said.

“I’m fiscally conservative, so it is not about just increasing the amount of money (for education),” he said. “We need to stop taking money away and stop giving tax cuts to those who don’t need them.”

On energy prices, which have hit New Hampshire hard with higher electric rates and fuel oil, Palmer said he wants to see more investment in renewables, which he believes would lower costs and create more jobs. He said neighboring states that have diversified their energy portfolios and are not as dependent on fossil fuels have lower energy costs than New Hampshire.

Drye supports alternative energy but only when it is as reliable as what New Hampshire uses now.

“They are the future, but they are not ready for the winter that we face this year,” Drye said. “It is a goal we should aim for, but it is not what voters are thinking about right now. When renewables are as reliable as natural gas, they are a great option.”

Another issue for Palmer is the lack of affordable housing for many, regardless of income, he said, citing a recent new hire at his hospital who had to decline the job offer because reasonably priced housing was not available.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at

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