Editor’s note: This story now has the addition of candidate Robert White, who was inadvertently left out of Friday’s coverage.
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
Five Republicans, Dennis Fields, the lone incumbent in the field, John Vorel, Tim Lang, Robert White and Richard Brothers — all from Sanbornton — are competing in the primary election for their party’s nomination for the two seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives representing Sanbornton and Tilton.
Fields was first elected to the House in 1982 and but for a four-year hiatus from 2004 to 2008 has served ever since. Seeking his 16th term — the last five representing Sanbornton and Tilton and the first 11 representing Merrimack — he said this week that "If I am elected this will definitely be my last term. I don't want to keep going forever."
Born in Vermont, Fields graduated from Newport High School in Newport, Vermont and served with the United States Navy between 1964 and 1971 and for many years was an active member and officer of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Despite his long tenure in the House, Fields has never risen to a position of leadership within the Republican caucus, in part because he has straddled the division within its ranks, sometimes aligning himself with the conservative faction and more often voting with the established party leadership. In the most recent session he voted with the House Republican Alliance, which scores representatives according to their adherence to the party platform, 57 percent of the time and even less often with the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance. Above all, Fields has relished his role as representative, seldom missing a session at the State House, where he is among the best figures, and often attending meetings and events in the towns he represents.
Born and raised on a farm in Gilmanton, Vorel, of Sanbornton, has spent much of his career in the ski industry, managing ski resorts, including King Ridge Ski Area, Gunstock Recreation Area and, as director of state ski operations, oversaw the state-owned slopes at Canon Mountain and Sunapee. As a consultant, he assisted with the development of what became Meadowbrook Musical Arts Center as well as served as president of the Laconia/Weirs Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Laconia/Gilford Economic Development Council. "I've managed public and private entities and worked with the state legislature and state agencies," Vorel said.
As a legislator, Vorel said he would have three major priorities — generating good jobs, improving public education and ensuring access to health care. He said sustainable jobs that pay a living wage and offer opportunity for advancement are essential to restoring the strength and renewing the growth of the economy. The state, he continued, must assist businesses to train and retain their employees. Vorel said that while good jobs will keep young people from leaving the state, educational opportunities, particularly at the vocational technical centers and community colleges, will prepare them for work.
"There is too much emphasis on four-year college," he said, suggesting government should partner with business to develop internships, apprenticeships and mentoring programs.
In providing access to health care, Vorel emphasized the importance of caring for younger veterans of the conflicts in the Middle East. "They do a terrific job at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton, " he said, "but too many young veterans are not receiving the care they were promised and require to reassimilate into the community."
"There is too much animosity in our politics," said Vorel. "We're elected to listen to our constituents and serve the public, to find solutions to problems, not debate ideological differences." He said that his professional experience equips him to broker competing interests and find common ground.
Lang spent 13 years in law enforcement is several states, including New Hampshire, and another 13 years operating his own information technology business. He has been something of a fixture in Sanbornton for some time, serving on the School Board, chairing the Zoning Board of Adjustment and acting as moderator for both the town and school district. But, he said he was prompted to seek a seat in the House by the dissension that has roiled the Belknap County convention for the past several years. "I think the delegation could use some compassion and empathy," he said. "I'm all for good healthy discussion, but I always learn more from those I disagree with than for those I agree with."
As a moderator, Lang said he would like to introduce a bill increasing the number required to petition for secret ballots at Town Meeting from five to 10 or even 20, He said that for a handful of people to slow the proceedings is "devastating to democracy." However, he said that otherwise he has no agenda.
"You walk in with an agenda," he remarked, "and you throw it away."
At the same time, Lang expressed concern that the Legislature has withheld assistance and transferred responsibilities to municipalities. "Balancing the budget on the backs of city and towns doesn't help anybody," he said.
White is making his first foray into the political arena. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, his service in the Army spanned two decades and included a tour as a field artillery officer in Vietnam and a spell as a research and development manager. During his service he earned a master’s degree in organic chemistry at Penn State University, a subject he taught at West Point for three years. After retiring with the rank of Lt. Colonel White joined the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services where he spent 16 years in the air resources division.
“I don’t have any real agenda,” White said, “or any hot positions.” However, he said that he as a member of Concerned Veterans for America he will seek to address the challenges facing veterans as well as all those struggling with poverty and homelessness. In Sanbornton he has served on both the Conservation Commission and the Solid Waste Committee.
White confessed to running a frugal campaign. He said that when he filed only three candidates had entered the race. “I’ve made all of two signs of black cardboard with my painted in white letters,” he remarked. “I may got to the dollar store and buy another piece of black cardboard.”
The fourth candidate, Brothers, of Sanbornton, the former commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security, could not be reached. A graduate of the State University of New York who served in the United States Marine Corps, Brothers has participated in Republican Party politics for a number of years. He twice ran for the New Hampshire Senate in District 2, losing primary elections to the late Carl Johnson of Meredith in 2002 and 2004. Two years ago he ran for the House in Sanbornton and Tilton , finishing third in the GOP primary behind Fields Brian Gallagher.
The primary election will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 13.