Orford’s entry into Grafton District 6 leads to candidate’s entry into NH House race

  • Jeffrey Greeson (Courtesy photograph)

  • Craig Tomlinson (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/29/2022 11:23:26 PM
Modified: 10/29/2022 11:23:05 PM

New Hampshire state Rep. Jeffrey Greeson, R-Wentworth, won one of the Upper Valley’s closest races in 2020, beating his Democratic opponent by less than two percentage points. But the landscape has changed since then.

If the Republican is going to win a second term on Nov. 8, he’ll have to do it in a redrawn Grafton District 6 against Orford Democrat and Dartmouth Cancer Center scientist Craig Tomlinson.

After a once-a-decade redistricting process, District 6 has a new look. In is Orford, joining two towns that were already in the district, Wentworth and Rumney. Out are the towns of Canaan, Dorchester, Ellsworth, Groton, Orange and Thornton.

Orford’s inclusion in the district opened the door for first-time candidate Tomlinson to challenge Greeson. He decided to toss his hat in the ring after being encouraged to run by state Rep. Russell Muirhead, D-Hanover, and being impressed with the local Democratic Party organization.

“There is a nice, young, intelligent, dedicated, hardworking group of people out there in the (local) Democratic Party, and I thought with all that support I would do it,” said Tomlinson, 71. “And because in several ways our state and as well as the country are going in the wrong direction, especially in preserving democracy and a woman’s right to choose.”

For his part, Greeson’s motivation to seek another term in Concord is to protect legislation passed by Republican majorities during his time in office.

“We were able to accomplish things in the last two years that I’d like to see not be undone,” said Greeson, 51, citing his expectation that Democrats will attempt to repeal Education Freedom Accounts and implement a statewide income tax. “At least give us two more years of life under the good stuff before we tear it all apart.”

The two candidates offer stark contrasts on a range of issues, including school choice, inflation and the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

For instance, Tomlinson opposes Education Freedom Accounts — which allow for public school funds to be used for alternative forms of education such as home schooling or parochial schools — because of what he calls the siphoning of funds from public schools. He also cites a lack of accountability for how those tax dollars are spent.

“There are no means to assess how (those students) are being educated,” he said. “It could be a lot of wasted money. Public schools have their issues … but at least we can assess how children and teachers are doing and make amends accordingly.”

Greeson has made school choice and Education Freedom Accounts a cornerstone of his larger legislative priority: protecting parental rights.

“I like people being able to direct the education of their children,” Greeson said. “Not every school is going to meet the needs of their child, and parents have to be able to make accommodations, whether that’s a private school, charter school or public school.”

Both candidates feel that fighting inflation is largely in the hands of the federal government but would like to see state policy address high energy prices, albeit with opposing approaches.

Tomlinson supports using funds provided by the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act to help local businesses build solar panels and install electric vehicle charging stations, while Greeson is opposed to turning away from what he calls more plentiful and less expensive fossil fuels.

And while Greeson hedged when asked if New Hampshire’s 2020 election results were fraudulent — “I don’t know. I didn’t count the votes” — Tomlinson said he believes the election results were fair and accurate outside of minor discrepancies due to human error.

But perhaps no issue highlights the differences between the two candidates more than abortion.

Greeson, a pastor at Wentworth Baptist Church, said that nothing will ever change his “pro-life from conception to death” position.

“If life doesn’t have value, then people will do some very crazy things and harm other people,” Greeson said. “If we allow the devaluation of life, then we have chaos, we don’t have freedom. We have misery and life sucks.”

Tomlinson believes that abortion is a medical decision that should be left to a woman and her doctor.

“I don’t think many of the legislators in the (New Hampshire) House would like anyone to tell them when to get a prostate exam,” he noted. “They are unnecessary restrictions, and it’s up to the woman and her doctor, and many times it’s a case-by-case basis depending on a woman’s health, age, economic or domestic situation.”

On whether New Hampshire’s current 24-week ban on abortion is too restrictive or not restrictive enough, neither particularly like it, but Greeson is more resigned to it remaining in place due to the state’s political realities.

“While I would personally love to see no abortions ever take place, and I would support legislation for that, I don’t think we’ll get (the number of weeks) reduced. Realistically, I don’t think it will ever happen,” Greeson said.

But for Tomlinson, even though a 24-week ban is less restrictive than the six-, 15- or 20-week bans either being discussed or already adopted by many other states, it still goes too far.

“I’m working more from the principle that there is no right for others to tell a woman how to deal with her reproductive health,” Tomlinson said. “The number of weeks to me is just a means by which we can argue one is more restrictive than the other. Well, yes. But do they both defy that principle? Yes.”

Justin Campfield can be reached at jhcampfield@gmail.com.

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