Mark Hounsell, a former state senator who is seeking the First District Congressional seat currently held by Carol Shea-Porter, outlines his positions during an interview at The Laconia Daily Sun on Thursday. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
Hounsell seeks First District seat in Washington
By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Mark Hounsell uses a hunting analogy to describe his entry into the First Congressional District race.
“When a hunter sees a deer through the trees, he raises his weapon and waits for a clear shot. It’s a narrow opening between the trees, and there’s a chance the shot will hit a tree on either side. He has to take careful aim and hope the bullet hits the target.”
He adds, “In my case, the bullet is money, and right now, I don’t have a bullet.”
The lack of funds does not deter him, however. He recalls when he ran for State Senate in the 1984 against a powerful, long-term politician, Greta Poulson. He was driving a beat-up Volkswagen and didn’t own a suit. He picked up a used corduroy sports jacket from the Etcetera Shop in Meredith and conducted a door-to-door campaign across the district, explaining his positions and gathering momentum. The campaign was successful.
An unconventional candidate, Hounsell describes himself as a “party outlier” who votes his conscience and is not afraid to reach across the aisle to engage those on the other side.
“I’m not reaching across the aisle,” he corrects himself. “I’m talking and listening. That’s how you work together and reach a compromise.”
A conservative Republican who once considered a career in the ministry, Hounsell models himself after former Gov. Meldrim Thomson Jr. He believes in state sovereignty and said New Hampshire needs a representative in Washington, D.C., who is authentic and fearless.
As a Christian, he said he is troubled by some of President Donald Trump’s behavior.
“He is different, so different that he’s startling, and affects my sensibilities,” Hounsell said. “It shows anyone can grow up to be president. … I’m not going to defend him, but as a politician who is Christian, my faith tells me, as Paul says, to pray for those with authority over us.”
He said, however, “He is the president. It’s a dereliction of duty to do what Carol Shea-Porter did. She wouldn’t even attend his inauguration.”
Hounsell stands behind the president on what he has accomplished in the area of tax reform, saying the results are already apparent in Apple’s decision to bring offshore money back into the United States. He attributes the rise in the stock market to Trump’s ability to restore people’s confidence.
Promising an issue-oriented campaign, Hounsell says that his attack on Democratic candidate Maura Sullivan, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and in the Obama administration, is not personal, and he credits her for wanting to serve. His objection is her lack of knowledge of the state.
“How can you move from Illinois to Rye seven months ago and claim you understand the district you’re representing?” he asked.
Even more concerning, he said, is that 80 percent of the money she is raising came from out of state.
She told WMUR that she has raised $430,000 in donations in her first nine weeks as a candidate, with 20 percent coming from Granite Staters.
“We’re a small state with only two representatives,” Hounsell said. “Can’t the Democrats allow us to have our own two reps?”
It is not a party issue, he said, noting that he also opposed Republican Scott Brown’s move to the state in an attempt to represent New Hampshire. He said New Hampshire Democrats have much better choices in Chris Pappas and Mark MacKenzie, who have much more experience, credentials, and understanding of the Granite State.
“My family’s roots in New Hampshire go back 12 generations,” Hounsell said. “I’ve listened to people all over the state.”
Hounsell currently serves as a Carroll County commissioner and a member of the Conway School Board, but he also has Lakes Region ties. He has lived in Groton, Hill, Bridgewater, Plymouth, Bristol, Holderness, and Danbury, and as a state senator, he represented other local towns and cities. He served as a member of the Newfound Area School Board and stepped in as moderator in Groton one year.
“I got to know people and families in Laconia and the Lakes Region,” he said.
He believes the Republic Party needs to re-establish a relationship with workers, saying, “There once was a time when the GOP was a friend to labor.”
Hounsell said he decided to run after his granddaughter was born and he thought about the amount of national debt she was inheriting. He supports a balanced budget amendment and wants to see more federal money returned to New Hampshire.
“We send $1.35 out to Washington and get $1 back. I want that other 35 cents,” he said.
While he agrees with most of President Trump’s priorities, Hounsell takes exception to his position on the environment.
“I don’t support offshore drilling,” Hounsell said, saying that protection of estuaries, watersheds, and other resources is critical.
Hounsell was serving in the State Senate when New Hampshire created its Department of Environmental Services to bring several state agencies under one roof to provide better protection of the state’s resources.
“Now the DES is hindered by being a pass-through agency of the federal government,” he said. “We need to loosen the grasp on state environmental services.”
He supports the Southeast Watershed Alliance in its efforts to protect the estuary by building wastewater treatment plants. The Alliance brings together 42 communities on the Seacoast that are looking for federal assistance in preserving an area that Hounsell says is important not just for New Hampshire but for the whole East Coast.
He also supports the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as being “essential to the defense of of the East Coast.”
Hounsell wants to shrink federal control over the state in many areas, including education. He believes the federal Department of Education should be abolished so states can determine their own path for providing a good education.
He cited Michelle Obama’s initiative to address childhood obesity as an example of unintended consequences — an issue that was brought home to him when he attempted to provide New Hampshire maple syrup to Kennett school children.
He said he received the syrup by winning a bet on whether Kennett or Berlin would win a hockey match. Since the students were the real winners, he took the prize to the food services director, but was told that federal guidelines would not allow them to serve New Hampshire maple syrup to the students.
“That is what I’m talking about,” Hounsell said. “It’s the insidious creep of federal authority over the states.”
Wars and revolution
Hounsell notes that Article 10, Part 1 of the New Hampshire Constitution is unique in the nation in giving the state the right to revolution if the government is not serving the people.
“We are duty-bound to fix our government, but we need to talk, because we don’t want a revolution,” he said. “We don’t want to tear it down and start over, but to reform our government.”
As for foreign policy, Hounsell believes in a strong defense, but he does not support nation-building and attempting to be the world’s policeman.
He said that, as a student of Plymouth State College in the 1980s, he took Prof. Peng-Khuan Chong’s course on the United States and Vietnam, which “reminded me so vividly of the pain and tragedy of the Vietnam War and the unnecessary mess of it.” He feels the same way about our decision to invade Iraq, which he said was ostensibly to defend against al-Qaida but was really about oil.
Rather than getting involved overseas, “We need to start by focusing on ourselves,” he said. “We have a moral obligation look for appropriate ways to assist those who have taken up arms against oppression,” he said, “but we have to be careful we don’t become an occupying force, like we did in Vietnam and Iraq.”
On other topics, he said the Affordable Care Act needs to be repaired or replaced; the Veterans Administration needs to improve services to veterans; and the United States should create hurdles, not walls, to slow immigration.
Locally, he said Northern Pass should be completed, but with underground lines.
Hounsell believes he is the best candidate to run against a Democrat because of his long service to the state and his understanding of its people, and he said he will pursue the congressional seat as long as he has support and the funds to do so.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the name of Hounsell's PSC professor.
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