Editorial — Annie Kuster: A Voice for Women, New Hampshire

Monday, November 07, 2016

The Tea Party and Republican Freedom Caucus have lately brought most progress to a halt in the U.S. House of Representatives, expending great time and energy tilting at windmills — and not the kind that produce energy. They have blocked legislation with such intransigence that former House Speaker John Boehner resigned and fled the Capitol in a huff. Current House Speaker Paul Ryan must wonder why he took the job.

If Democrats pick up additional House seats Nov. 8, the worst could be over. Ryan could be emboldened to break the stranglehold of the most conservative wing of his party over the House, and return to the time-honored practice in which the two major parties compromise to produce legislation. If that happens, we believe New Hampshire Rep. Annie Kuster is well suited to play a contributing role.

In the last two years, something of a Dark Ages for legislators who want to make things happen, Kuster has focused on the few issues where bipartisan agreement was possible. On the Veterans Affairs Committee, she worked with Republicans to enact a reform bill to address mismanagement in the VA, and to reduce delays and denial of care for veterans. She is among those who fought for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which has increased treatment opportunities for those afflicted by the opioid epidemic. More broadly, she concedes that changes may be needed in the Affordable Care Act, but predicts it “will stand the test of time.” She would close loopholes in background checks related to gun sales, a sensible step to reduce the proliferation of guns.

In the Upper Valley, Kuster played a prominent role in the effort to preserve public housing at Pine Tree and Beechwood apartments in West Lebanon, keeping 88 subsidized units affordable. She was among those who worked to help Claremont’s River Valley Community College expand programs to Lebanon after Lebanon College shut down. In fact, she has become a champion of community colleges, supporting Hillary Clinton’s proposal to make them tuition-free, and backs efforts to allow graduates to refinance college debt at lower rates. She is an advocate of providing vocational training related to advanced manufacturing.

Kuster has also become a particularly effective and empathetic voice for women. In addition to working on measures to address sexual assault in the military and college campuses, Kuster has shared her personal story of being sexually assaulted while a student at Dartmouth College and later as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill. In response to that, she says, “People are coming up to me all the time and telling me their stories.” Her disclosure was another helpful moment in a national discussion that must lead to change.

Her Republican opponent, Jim Lawrence, of Hudson, has run a lackluster campaign. He is an advocate of the flat tax, an idea whose time has come and gone, advocates greatly increasing school choice, a position that could hurt public schools, and is an absolutist on the Second Amendment. Oddly, for an Air Force veteran, he blames the G.I. Bill for raising college costs; he would put more students at the mercy of private lenders. He has not satisfactorily answered reports that cast doubts about his business background and financial circumstances, such as stories that said he owed $15,000 in back property taxes to Hudson.

Kuster is seeking a third term representing the 2nd Congressional District. In our view, she has been effective in looking out for the interests of her constituents and in promoting legislation to benefit the nation, even in a Congress wracked by dysfunction. She has clearly earned another term.