×

New Faces to Take On GOP In House Race

  • John Streeter

  • Bruce Cragin

  • Steven Smith

  • Thomas Laware



Valley News Correspondent
Friday, October 05, 2018

Charlestown — Two political newcomers are challenging the incumbent Republicans for New Hampshire House seats representing Charlestown and several other southern Sullivan County towns.

Democrat John Streeter, who served six years on the Fall Mountain Regional School District School Board, is taking on state Rep. Tom Laware, R-Charlestown, for the single-town Sullivan 8 House seat in the November election.

And Lempster Democrat Bruce Cragin is hoping to defeat four-term state Rep. Steve Smith, R-Charlestown, for the Sullivan 11 House floterial seat that also includes Acworth, Goshen, Langdon and Washington.

Sullivan 8

Streeter, 50, a contractor in information technology for the state of Vermont, has lived in Charlestown since 2006 and is making his first run for a state office.

Streeter said he takes a big-picture view of the issues facing the state — whether it is education funding, mental health or the opioid crisis — and wants to see New Hampshire taking a bigger financial stake in solving them.

“They are all tied together,” Streeter said. “Some things needed to be funded on a statewide basis.”

Increasing state funding of public schools would be a priority for Streeter if elected. While serving on the Fall Mountain School Board, he said, budgets were cut, but with decreasing state revenues the board still had to tell taxpayers that taxes were going up.

“That is insanity,” Streeter said, adding that his frustration with the state at the school-district level prompted him to run for the House. “We are not addressing the problem. As far as I am concerned, the state should be paying $15,000 for every student. I believe the state has a vested interest in seeing that all kids get a comparable education.”

As for how to raise the additional money, Streeter said he’s open-minded.

“I am prepare to look at anything,” he said.

Laware said he sees no need to increase the state adequacy amount of $3,600 per student, nor for changing the funding formula, which currently reduces the stabilization grant by 4 percent a year.

“Basically, I think it should stay the way it is,” Laware said. “We need to start cutting expenses (to bring down taxes).”

In the wake of school shootings in Parkland, Fla., and Santa Fe High School in Texas, there was considerable nationwide discussion on whether teachers should be armed, which Streeter called “a ridiculous idea.”

Laware said he believes that under the right circumstances, such as allowing only those with proper training who volunteer to have a firearm, he might support the concept.

“It would be better to have a police officer in the school, but that would be expensive,” said the 66-year-old Laware.

Laware, a retired UPS driver, was first elected in 2010 but lost a re-election bid two years later. He won back the seat in 2014 and was re-elected two years ago.

He would support incremental increases in the minimum wage to help workers gain more disposable income but is not sure what amount of an increase he would back.

Streeter also said he supports raising the minimum wage “to something that is livable and indexing it to cost of living.” New Hampshire is tied to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which has not increased since 2009.

Both candidates said they would support full legalization of marijuana, though Laware said he understands issues of impairment could pose a problem.

“Marijuana seems as safe as or safer than tobacco and alcohol, and unless I am convinced otherwise, I think it should share comparable legal status,” Streeter said.

Sullivan 11

Smith, a 54-year-old incumbent Republican, said he believes a solution to the education funding dilemma is at hand with the expected report from a House committee due out in a few weeks.

According to Smith, the committee has developed a new formula to distribute aid to school districts, including the targeting of aid to property-poor towns such as Charlestown. Additionally, Smith said, the annual 4 percent decrease in the stabilization grant that has hit school districts including Charlestown, Claremont and Newport hard will be frozen until the new formula takes effect.

“I’m enthusiastic with the product they are coming up with,” he said.

Cragin, 68, grew up in Lempster, moved away during a career in science and engineering, then returned about 10 years ago. Retired, he is making his first run for public office.

Cragin said education funding will be a priority if he’s elected.

“New Hampshire isn’t living up to its obligation to adequately fund public schools, and the result when the state doesn’t pay its fair share is the towns must make up the difference, and that is unfair to the taxpayers,” Cragin said. “The first thing we have to do is stop the 4 percent (annual) decrease in the stabilization grant. But we have to go further, and I would be willing to take a look at a broad-based tax.”

On the question of marijuana legalization, the candidates had different views.

“I don’t support legalization (of marijuana). I’m a rules guy,” Smith said. “Until the feds decide it can be sold and money can be reported on your income tax and a business set up with a bank, I can’t support it.”

Cragin said he personally does not like the idea of marijuana legalization but would not stand in the way of what his constituents want and would back it if voters supported it.

Cragin called arming teachers a “bad idea,” while Smith said he would consider it.

“I would never force a teacher to be armed and I would not support it without proper training,” Smith said. “Ultimately it should be up to each school district.”

Smith said he does not believe raising the minimum wage would solve the problem of income disparity among workers. He said it might help in the short term, but rising living costs catch up in a few years and wipe out any gains for low-wage workers.

“We have to do things like get control of housing costs so workers on the lower end of the wage scale have more disposable income,” Smith said.

Cragin said he would support an increase in the minimum wage but would have to study the issue further before deciding how much to increase it and over what period of time.

The election is Nov. 6. Democrats hold a 7-6 majority in the Sullivan County delegation.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com