By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH – "There are three things Jeanie is afraid of," Keith Forrester told the enthusiastic crowd nearly filling the Wicwas Grange last evening. "Me with a mic, what I'm going to wear and what's Keith going to say."
But, when it comes to running for governor, Jeanie Forrester has no fear. "I'm a real conservative with real experience, " declared the Republican state senator serving her third term. "and a firm believer that all politics is local." Promising to run "a full-bore, grassroots campaign," she repeatedly struck its dominant theme by pledging "I will break from the past. I will be a governor for the people."
A native of Michigan, Forrester said she came from a "blue collar background," adding that her father worked in a factory and her mother waited tables. She recalled on her favorite Christmas she received "homemade clothes and pop tarts." Working as a secretary and studying at night, she was the first in her family to earn a college degree. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire, she became a aide to Governor John H. Sununu. She has served as a town administrator in Tuftonboro and New Durham and as the executive director of Main Street Programs in Meredith and Plymouth. She and her husband are co-owners of a small environmental firm.
Forrester is serving her third term in the Senate, where she represents 27 towns in Belknap, Grafton and Merrimack counties as well as chairs the Finance Committee. serves on the Capital Budget Committeee. representing where she chairs the Finance Committee.
Forrester committed herself to limited government, personal responsibility, the right to bear arms, the life of unborn children and steadfast opposition to general sales or personal income tax.
Then Forrester turned her fire on the culture of the State House. Recalling the first of her three terms in the Senate, she said that the first vote she cast was the lone dissenting vote on a bill the Meredith town clerk advised her would adversely affect municipalities. "Whenever the politicians go after our communities," she said, "I will be with the people 100 percent of the time."
An opponent of the Northern Pass project, Forrester said she was warned that the energy lobby, but was not deterred. Instead she championed and shepherded legislation to curb the power of eminent domain and protect private property. As governor, she said, "New Hampshire will no longer be the energy doormat of New England. I will put the ratepayers first.
"It's time to take power away from Concord," Forrester said, "and empower our communities and protect them from the overreach of state government." .
Forrester said that after working for five years at Odyessy House, a drug treatment facility, she is prepared to tackle the scourge of addiction. "Now is the time to stand up for parents like Judy Tilton," she said eying the mother who lost a son to fentanyl a year ago. "I grieved with you then and I grieve with you now," she said.
Forrester called for teaching children about the risks of drugs "early and often," pledged to open "a tip line" with a $5,000 cash reward for information leading to the conviction of dealers, and promised that those selling drugs that kill others will be tried for murder and sentenced to life without parole. "We will lock you up and throw away the key," she said.
Forrester drew a spirited response not only from her longtime, predominantly Republican supporters, but also from the likes of Tilton selectmen, Pat Consentino and Katherine Dawson, who held signs in the front row.
"Any question or concern we've had over the years," Consentino said, "we pick up the phone. She listens, does everything she can and follows up to make sure the problem got fixed." Dawson said that she comes to their meetings just to ask "is there anything you need from me?"
Forrester is the fourth candidate to enter the Republican gubernatorial primary, joing Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and Representative Frank Edelblut of Wilton.