LACONIA — Republican State Sen. Harold French, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 6, favors a smaller, less-intrusive government, and he says his legislative record backs up this philosophy.
French, 60, an auctioneer and real estate broker, talked about his priorities in an interview with The Daily Sun on Thursday.
“The state and federal government are responsible for some things, but not everything,” he said. “We are over-regulated. There are too many laws and they are getting in the way of people trying to live their lives.”
A graduate of Hopkinton High School, he attended Plymouth State University for a year. French operated a gallery in Laconia and was a folk sculptor. He was among those led by the late Wanda Tibbetts, who began the Lakeport Community Association.
He faces Democrat Mason Donovan in the General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
French represents Senate District 7, which takes in Andover, Belmont, Boscawen, Canterbury, Franklin, Gilford, Northfield, Salisbury, Webster and Laconia.
Two years ago, he defeated Democratic incumbent Andrew Hosmer by a razor-thin margin to win the seat. Hosmer, now a Laconia City councilor, lost by 17 votes, 13,880-13,863.
During that campaign, a check of county deed records showed there were tax liens on several properties he owned and that he owed $57,713 to the Internal Revenue Service. He said those liens have since been released and they were incurred because of his real estate business.
“You were not allowed to have legal representation, while the insurance provider could have attorneys,” he said. “This changed that. Now you can go in with your attorneys and they can fight their attorneys. It sounds like a small change, but it’s actually a big change.”
He also said he backed legislation making it easier for individuals to provide up to three residential mortgages without being licensed.
“There are a lot of people in this state with a lot of money who would like to help people buy homes,” he said. “This helps people get into a home and start building equity.”
French said he introduced a legislative amendment that ensures people who are found not guilty of a criminal charge automatically have the matter taken off their arrest record.
“Up to this point, if you wanted an arrest record annulled, you would have to pay to have it annulled,” he said. “Hundreds of people in this state who were arrested and found not guilty had an arrest record when checked. It’s a small change, but it makes a big difference. Now it’s automatically taken care of.”
He said he backs transparency in government, including enforcement of a state law requiring upper-level state employees and commission appointees to file financial disclosures. The New Hampshire Union-Leader reported Thursday that the law appears to be routinely ignored.
French was a co-sponsor on a bill to abolish the death penalty. It passed the Legislature but was vetoed by Sununu.
“Being 60 now, my philosophy has changed on a few things and this is one of them,” he said. “The Innocence Project has proven around the country – time and again – that someone on Death Row might be innocent.”
The Innocence Project, founded by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck in 1992, works to exonerate the wrongly convicted through DNA testing.
“We haven’t used the death penalty in this state since 1939,” French said. “We have no death chamber or lawful way of doing it. A death penalty case takes 20 years and costs upwards of $10 million. It’s cheaper to put them in prison for life without parole, than engage in a death penalty process for some sort of revenge brought for the state.”
French’s most current campaign finance report, filed Sept. 19, shows receipts to date at $16,411 and expenditures at $22,056. He filed the report electronically and said an error artificially inflated the expenditure total. He said the report will soon be updated to correct the error.
The largest expenditure, $3,000, was made on March 15, 2018, to pay him back for a loan he made to his candidate committee in his first run for state Senate.
Also reflected in the report was a $430 expense at the Country Inn and Suites of Nashville and a $169 rental car charge in that city. He said he traveled to Nashville to attend an American Legislative Exchange Council conference. Model legislation is often shared at such meetings. He also had an expenditure of $1,000 to the council for consulting fees and contract work. He explained the expenditure on his campaign report as "education on current state legislative issues."
The council calls itself a “nonpartisan voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.”
His contributors include Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield ($250), AT&T ($225), Eversource PAC-NH ($100), New Hampshire Independent Pharmacy Association ($1,000), New Hampshire Realtors PAC ($1,500), the pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. of Memphis ($1,000), Select Management Resources of Georgia ($750) and Exacta Systems of Florida ($500) and American Chemistry Council of Washington, D.C., ($250).