Gaining momentum among N.H. Republicans, John Kasich addresses local group

BELMONT — John Kasich, the next to last of the 17 Republicans to enter the starting gate for the presidential stakes, rode the crest of a swelling wave to the Top of the Town restaurant this week where his conservatism, leavened by dollops of pragmatism and compassion, played well to a packed house hosted by the Belknap County Republican Committee.

Kasich announced his candidacy on July 21, performed well in the Fox News debate, invested heavily in television advertising and came in third — behind Donald Trump and Jeb Bush — in a poll of New Hampshire voters this week. He has quickly shown himself a strong competitor alongside Bush and Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, for the centrist/conservative vote, which since undeclared voters can take either ballot in the New Hampshire Primary could determine its outcome. By the same token, centrist candidates will likely face stiffer challenges in primaries in states with more conservative GOP electorates, particularly in the South.

"Kasich would be a very strong candidate in a general election," said one party insider, "but, the question is whether he can win the nomination."

Kasich, 63, who served nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 2001 — six of them as chairman of the Budget Committee — and is serving his second term as governor of Ohio, is the most experienced candidate in the field. "I've written 16 budgets," he remarked.

Kasich responded to questions directly, displaying a sure command of the issues. He defended his decision to overcome opposition from fellow Republicans in the Ohio legislature to expand Medicaid, insisting that the program benefited the most vulnerable and least fortunate. Although he authored a health-care proposal based on a mandate requiring individual to purchase insurance, he said that would repeal Obamacare and replace it with plan designed to "to keep people healthy rather than treat them when they're sick." He likened primary care physicians to "shepherds" and would empower them to provide regular examinations and routine care at lower costs, emphasizing "quality not quantity medicine."

Kasich also called for measures to control the cost of Medicaid and reform Social Security by enabling younger employees with the opportunity to invest a share of their contribution to private accounts, which he said would ensure the program remained solvent.

Major changes to the health care system and Social Security, Kasich stressed, must be undertaken by a bipartisan coalition. "You don't want to do it with one party," he said, pointing to the dissension arising from introducing Obamacare without Republican support.

"You eat an elephant one bite at a time," Kasich remarked in addressing the deficit. He recalled his experience as chairman of the House Budget Committee in the 1990s when he worked with Clinton administration to reduce the deficit, balance the budget and generate a surplus.

On immigration, Kasich said his first priority would be "build the wall" and return those who breach it to their country of origin followed by a guest worker program and pathway to "legal status" for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the country. "I'm not for calling these people names or shipping them out," he said. When challenged, he replied that mass deportation is "not practical. I'm not for doing it and not changing my position to gain a vote."

Kasich, who has endorsed the national Common Core education standards, said that 40 percent of high school graduates enroll in remedial courses in college and called for more demanding standards while ensuring local control of school curriculum. He said that the cost of higher education can be reduced by identifying and addressing the factors driving increasing costs.

Kasich left Bob Selig of Laconia impressed. "He's very articulate, answers questions directly and is aggressive, but not negative," he said, then added that he has not yet decided who to vote for.

Early a.m. Laconia police operation nets 20 wanted for drug-related crimes

LACONIA — City police, with the assistance of officers from Gilford, arrested 18 people in Laconia and two in Gilford for unspecified drug crimes early Thursday morning.

Det. Sgt. Dennis Ashley said in a written media statement that police began their "warrant sweep" on 25 suspects with more than 32 active warrants. He said of the 20 that were arrested, most of them were sleeping and all of the arrests were without incident meaning that no one was injured and no property as damaged.

He said additional arrests are expected.

The "round up" comes after six months of "drug related investigations" by city police. Ashley said it included numerous hours of undercover surveillance and "controlled buys" to compile the evidence used to support probable cause.

A "controlled buy" typically uses confidential informants to buy drugs from known drug dealers.

Since none of the charges against the 20 people were provided yesterday by police, no names will be published at this time by The Daily Sun.

A corrections official said at 3 p.m. no one from Laconia or Gilford was brought to the Belknap County House of Corrections yesterday as a new arrest although a few of addresses provided by police indicate people who are already incarcerated were included. This means that most of those arrested were likely released on personal recognizance bail and given a future court day.

'Free the NIpple' protestors look to target Laconia after Hampton Beach

LACONIA — One of the lead organizers of the Free the Nipple N.H. movement said yesterday the grassroots organization will come to a beach in Laconia some time after their planned August 23 demonstration at Hampton Beach.

Gilford resident Heidi Lilley said yesterday that Laconia is being targeted because, to the best of her knowledge, it is the only community in the state that expressly bans the baring of female nipples.

"(The ordinance) is inconsistent with state law and we're trying to change that," Lilley said yesterday.

Free the Nipple N.H. is a Facebook-centered campaign that is working to equalize the rights of men and women and advocate for the de-sexualizing of the female breast. The campaign originally stemmed from push back against public breast-feeding but in 2014 was expanded into a movement for breast equality with the production of the documentary film "Free the Nipple".

"We're not asking to go topless in restaurants and stores. We're not asking to go to those places," Lilley said. "We just want to go topless where men can go topless and that's primarily the beach."

Lilley said the date and place of Free the Nipple N.H.'s demonstration has not been determined and she's not even sure it will happen this year.

"We have to get through Hampton first," she said. "But we're not backing down."

Laconia's ordinance against nudity, which includes the "female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple" stems from the rowdiness, nudity and the "show-us-yours" screaming of bystanders to female rally-goers in the city during the annual Motorcycle Week. It was passed in 1998.

City Councilor Henry Lipman said that in his opinion the ordinance was initially passed more to protect women from the continual onslaught of people screaming obscenities at them than for public morality purposes.

Lilley, who is native to central New Hampshire and who in years past has been to many Motorcycle Week rallies, said that during the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s she supported the ordinance because it was intimidating for women during those times. She said she thinks the Motorcycle Week has aged and become much calmer in the past 20 years and doesn't think there is a continued need for it.

City Councilor Brenda Baer said yesterday that the ordinance is part of the reason why Laconia Motorcycle Week is much tamer than it was in its heyday.

"Other than that, as a woman of my age it's probably something I'd never consider," she said with a laugh.

She said in theory the law against females baring their breasts at the beach is discriminatory but she agrees with it because of the mores of women in her generation.

"I wouldn't arrest them. I really wouldn't," she said.

Both her and Councilor Ava Doyle agreed that some men should not be allowed to go topless at the beach or anywhere else in public.

"I'm offended when I see some man walking shirtless down the street," Doyle said.

Laconia Police Capt. Bill Clary, responding to a Right to Know request about the number of citations issued under the ordinance, said that in 2010 eight people were cited, seven in 2011, seven in 2012, 13 in 2014 and two so far this year. He also noted that the statistics don't include the sex of the offender so, for example, the citations could include men who were cited for public urination.

Clary also noted that the ordinance allows police to cite people for encouraging others to display their genitalia or breasts, which goes to the heart of why most city councilors who were reached said it was passed in the first place.

Clary said city police have never arrested or cited a breast-feeding woman.

Since Laconia's ordinance exceeds state law, which doesn't prohibit the baring of female breasts in public, police can only fine offenders $250 for a first offense going up to $1,000 for a third offense.

The Free the Nipple N.H. movement in New Hampshire has targeted Hampton Beach for it's first campaign which has led to public outcries largely from area residents who say Hampton Beach has continually marketed itself as a family-friendly community and topless sunbathing flies in the face of that.

Many have reached out to Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton to change the state law to one that would ban women going topless and displaying the nipple portion of their breasts in public.

Stiles told the Concord Monitor that she thinks there are more pressing issues for the state Senate to address but said she has heard from a number of her constituents about this and is talking to other state senators about a new law.

Sen. Andrew Hosmer, D-Laconia said yesterday that the "(Legislature's) energy should be focused on the state budget and the heroin crisis in my District (7) and the state."

"Until I learn more, I'm not inclined to support any bill," Hosmer said.