By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Charlie St. Clair and Steven Whalley, candidates seeking to succeed Robert Fisher as state representative, are both familiar with hard work.
The opening in District 9, which takes in Laconia and Belmont, was created when Fisher, a Republican, resigned in a scandal over his creation of a website critical of women.
St. Clair, a member of the Laconia Planning Board and the executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, is the Democratic candidate on the Sept. 12 ballot. He drove a cab in Boston for 17 years.
Whalley, who owns HK Powersports and whose brother was a prominent legislator, is the Republican in the race. He put himself through college with grueling jobs, including chipping mortar off old bricks at 3 cents a brick.
Their work ethic could come in handy in Concord, where the winner will be one of 400 representatives in the Republican-controlled House.
Charlie St. Clair
St. Clair, a native of Laconia, said he is not beholden to a party platform but instead wants to leverage his background and experience to make a difference on issues like transportation, health care coverage and school funding.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Colorado, with a minor in education, and believes people who refuse to learn from history repeat mistakes of the past.
At age 67, he said he doesn’t feel much different than when he was 47, but thinks his experience is a plus in public service.
“I think I’d rather be 67 than say 27 today because of my life experiences,” he said. “I’m not so sure I could have those same life experiences today if I was 27 because so much in the world has changed and you don’t get to do the same things I was able to do.”
St. Clair worked as a teacher and owned a video store in Boston, while maintaining a job as a cab driver. He sold the store in 1991 and went to work for the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. He has also run a night club at The Weirs and owns an antique store downtown.
Before he became eligible for Medicare, he maintained his own primary health insurance and said he was happy to see his yearly premiums decrease by $4,000 after passage of the Affordable Care Act. He supports New Hampshire’s expanded Medicaid system, which would have been cut back if the Senate had passed legislation to repeal Obamacare.
He said that as a former teacher in elementary and high schools, be believes in public schools and is against anything that would dilute classroom funding.
“I think it’s great if people want to take their kids out of public schools and put them in private schools. That’s their choice,” he said. “However, I firmly believe that the public schools are the basis for the education in our state and in our community.”
St. Clair said he is a big supporter of maintaining public roads, but is also a fan of public transit, including Amtrak’s Downeaster with service from Boston to points in New Hampshire and Maine.
“The Downeaster has proved to skeptics that rail transportation is not only popular but practical,” he said. “I know we have a mindset in Concord that that is just outrageous thinking, but people I talk to around here say, ‘That makes so much sense.’ Some people will say, ‘But Charlie it doesn’t pay for itself.’”
St. Claire rejects that argument.
“It’s public transportation,” he said. “The roads don’t pay for themselves. The bridges don’t pay for themselves. The buses don’t pay for themselves. I don’t mind paying taxes, it’s just what they are used for sometimes.”
His Republican opponent is concerned about too much government spending.
Whalley, whose business sells motorcycles, snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles in stores in Laconia and Hooksett, worries about the rising cost of health care.
“I generally have a conservative fiscal attitude,” said Whalley, who became an entrepreneur after putting himself through the University of New Hampshire and graduating with a business degree.
“I look at our health care system. We talk in circles about what’s better, what’s worse, but insurers are leaving the state.
“Our health care system, the way it is going, is basically going broke. If it’s costing more and more and people are getting services they not paying for, then it has to implode, as Donald Trump says, and we all have to realize that.”
He also said he has experienced his share of red tape and government inefficiency as a businessman and would like to see what he can do to address that if elected.
Whalley said he would like to restore the “New Hampshire Advantage,” under which the state provided an example of best practices in numerous areas and attracted a young, talented work pool.
Now, the state is trying to attract younger residents, while fighting an opiate crisis that is rendering some young people unemployable, Whalley said.
“Besides the death, the effects on personal life, the opiate crisis has had an effect on being able to work in a job,” he said. “We know it has had a huge impact on the ability to hire people.”
His brother was state House Minority Leader Michael Whalley, R-Alton, a one-time assistant House Speaker who died in 2008 at age 54 from complications from a fall while he was fighting brain cancer.
Steven Whalley said he and his brother were among five children.
“We were raised to give something back to the community,” he said.
“As one of 400 people, I know I can’t go in and change the world, but we have a very popular governor now and it’s an exciting time to get involved in politics and furthering some of the things we believe in.”
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