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Swinford & Howard competing for GOP nomination in 3-town House district

ALTON/BARNSTEAD/GILMANTON — Elaine Swinford of Barnstead and Ray Howard of Alton are seeking the Republican nomination in Belknap County House District 8, which encompasses the towns of Alton, Barnstead and Gilmanton.
Swinford, who served two terms in the New Hampshire House from 2008 to 2012, is the welfare officer for the town of Barnstead, where she also runs the town thrift shop and community pantry, while Howard, a self-employed small business owner, serves on the Alton Planning Board and as a cemetery trustee.
Swinford, who served as chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee during her second term, says ''I want to go back to the House. I think I did good job there and can continue to do a good job. I will work to represent all of my constituents, not just those who voted for me, just as I have done in the past.''
Howard says he is running because he believes that government spending has ''gotten out of control and it's time to put a lid on it'', citing the expansion of Medicaid at the state level as a program that he believes can't be sustained and will prove too costly for New Hampshire taxpayers.
He says that he is old-fashioned New Englander whose roots go back for generations and that he believes in self-reliance and hard work and that those are values he will bring to the Legislature is he is elected.
Swinford, who holds a Master's degree in mental health from Springfield, College, says that she owns the thrift shop and community pantry in Barnstead and created them because she saw the need in the community for those kind of services through her job as welfare director.
Swinford says she doesn't believe that the 4 cent a gallon gas tax increase approved by the legislature was really needed and maintains that highway improvements should be funded through highway trust fund money which is being diverted to law enforcement.
Both candidates say they have reservations about plans for a proposed new Belknap County jail, which, according to a preliminary estimate, could cost as much as $42 million.
''We don't need a Taj Mahal,'' says Swinford, who says that an earlier plan for renovation and expansion of jail carried an $18 million estimate at the low end of the cost spectrum.
She says that she favors an in-house approach to dealing with the mental health and addiction problems that many of the county jail inmates suffer from, having witnessed the success of such programs while doing an internship at the mens' state prison in Massachusetts while attending Springfield College.
Howard notes that Swinford, who lost a race for re-election in the Republican primary in 2012, voted for an appropriation of $160,000 to fund the study by Ricci Greene Associates which came up with a plan for a 94,500-square-foot, 180-bed facility with an estimated cost of $42.6 million.
He says that he is still learning a lot about then details of the county jail debate and says that he is interested in a 1987 plan which would have added a third wing to the jail which might prove to be the most economical solution.
''All of this is going to be looked at and debated. I want a workable plan which will be fair to the taxpayers. I don't want them burdened with bells and whistles,'' says Howard.
He says that he thinks the current county convention has done a good job on holding the line on spending and would stick with that approach.
They are seeking the nomination for the District 8 seat which was won by Republican Jane Cormier of Alton two years ago. Cormier, who served as clerk of the Belknap County Convention, resigned earlier this year after moving to Hooksett, where she is now a candidate in the state senate race in the GOP primary running against incumbent Republican David Boutin.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 September 2014 01:33

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Former sheriff endorses Hurt for N.H. House

GILFORD —George Hurt's candidacy for state representative in the N.H. House District (Belknap 2) that includes Gilford and Meredith has received an endorsement from former Belknap County Sheriff Steve Hodges.

Five Republicans are running for the party's four spots on District 2 general election ballots and primary election day is Tuesday, Sept. 9.

"I have known George for 16 years and I am enthused that George is stepping forward and choosing to run," said Hodges. "George is known as a well-respected businessman and that respect has earned him a reputation as a hardworking and trusted individual. His prior legislative experience representing Gilford will mean he will be able to hit the ground running.

"I am endorsing George because of his sincere commitment in finding a workable solution to the Belknap County Correction complex that all taxpayers of the county can support," added Hurt. "I urge voters in Gilford and Merediht to vote on September 9 for George."

Hurt, a Gilford resident, said he was honored to have received a public endorsement from "one of the Lakes Region's well recognized and respected former law enforcement officials".






Last Updated on Friday, 05 September 2014 01:19

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Shari Lebreche trying to secure a GOP spot on November ballot via write-in campaign for Belmont House seat

BELMONT — Although only one Republican filed as a candidate for this town's two seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, Shari Lebreche, who owns and operates Tilton's Haircuts for Men has mounted a write-in campaign to ensure the GOP fields a full slate in the general election.

Incumbent Republican Rep. Charles Fink chose not to seek re-election to a second term, leaving Rep. Michael Sylvia, who is running for a second term, the lone declared GOP candidate. Two Democrats, Ron Cormier and George Condodemetraky, have filed their candidacy.

Lebreche said that when Sylvia found that a Democrat would capture one of the two seats by default he approached her about filling the ticket. "I thought it over and decided I'm going to try to do it," she said yesterday.

Raised in Northfield, Lebreche, has lived in the region all her life and operated her business in Tilton for the last nine years. She described herself as "conservative" and said that although she has been an active advocate for the rights of gun owners, she has no direct political experience.

Lebreche is opposed to a personal income or general sales tax and believes that balanced budgets and reduced spending would encourage the growth of small business. Right-to-work legislation, she said, would also improve the business climate. Strongly committed to parental and local control of the public schools, she opposes the introduction of Common Core. Lebreche expressed concern about illegal immigration, fearing that the dispersal of aliens throughout the state adversely affect the markets for jobs and housing as well as public safety and national security. Finally, she said that she wants to ensure that the needs of veterans in New Hampshire, particularly their healthcare, are met.

"In my job I talk to a lot of people from all over the Lakes Region and the state and from all walks of life," Lebreche said, discounting her lack of experience. "I have a good idea of what people are thinking and believe I can represent them."

State law provides that a person must receive at least 35 write-in votes in the primary election to qualify for place on the ballot for the general election. A person receiving the required number of write-in votes in the primary election who chooses to accept the nomination must file a declaration of candidacy with the New Hampshire Secretary of State no later than the first Monday after the primary.

The primary election will be held on Tuesday, September 9.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 September 2014 01:17

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Pollak tells Rotarians 'model' jail building process needs to run its course

LACONIA — Describing meetings of the Belknap County Convention as "ugly events where nothing's getting done," David Pollak, the Democrat seeking to represent Laconia, New Hampton and Sanbornton on the Belknap County Commission, told the Laconia Rotary Club yesterday, "I want to bring civility, common sense and a sharp pencil to what appears to be a broken partisan process."

Pollak, who has lived in Laconia with his wife and four children for 10 years, is professor of psychology at Lakes Region Community College and a member of the adjunct faculty at Plymouth State University where he teaches constitutional law. He graduated from George Washington University, earned a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania and a Masters degree at Antioch University of New England. Before turning to teaching he practiced law in Pennsylvania and managed construction projects in New York.

Speaking to the Rotarians, Pollak confined his remarks to the future of the county jail, beginning by noting that although he has represented and taught inmates "I didn't understand corrections systems." But, he said he did understand that the city is beset by heroin epidemic, which contributes to much of its crime, and as a father "I want to do something about that."

"When you lock them up and throw away the key," Pollak remarked, "you get better criminals." On the other hand, he continued evidence demonstrates that inmates enrolled in rehabilitative and educational programming are less likely to run afoul of the law down the road. Noting that he has visited jails in Sullivan and Grafton counties, he said that in Sullivan County programming has had a "significant impact on the rate of recidivism. If we intervene constructively, we can break the cycle for some of these people."

Likewise, Pollak suggested steps can be taken to manage the growth in the number of inmates. In particular, he suggested exploring ways to reduce the time inmates are held before their cases go to trial — in partnership with attorneys and judges. However, he cautioned against simply increasing the number of inmates monitored by electronic bracelets as David DeVoy, his Republican opponent, proposes. Additional personnel would be required to expand the program, he said. Not all inmates qualify and those that do must be employed, he added, rejecting the notion that a certain number of inmates could be expected to on bracelets at any one time. Furthermore, he noted that the population of the jail is not reduced by the number inmates on bracelets, who still require a bed.

In defense of the current Belknap County Commissioners, Pollak described the process they have followed in planning for the jail "a model of democratic process."
He said that the commission consulted with experts in correctional policy and educated themselves at a workshop then convened a committee, inviting public officials and local residents to participate. "You can sit on the sidelines and lob grenades," he said, "or you can roll up your sleeves and get involved."

Pollak stressed that the report of Ricci Greene Associates, with its conceptual plan for a new facility with a $42-million price tag, is "only the first step in a process. The same firm, he explained, prepared a conceptual plan for a new jail in Grafton County with a cost of $60million, but the facility was ultimately built at a cost of $30 million. He said that the Jail Planning Committee has shrunk the dimensions of the plan presented by Ricci Greene Associates by 20 percent and when schematic drawings are complete the cost can be reduced further.

Asked if he had a specific jail budget number in mind, Pollak flatly answered "no" after earlier conceding, "I don't know if $30 million is a reasonable number." He said that "we have to have conversations with stakeholders and it has to be something we can all afford." Like the current commissioners, he intends to sound officials across the county, particularly in Laconia where the budget is bound by a property tax cap.

"I'm out there talking to anybody I can shake out from under a rock," Pollak said when he was asked if he had spoken to Richard Grenier, a former Superintendent of the Department of Corrections who is now a selectman in Gilford.

Pollak and Devoy will square off in the general election on November 4.

Last Updated on Friday, 05 September 2014 01:13

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