District 15 State Senate primary candidates weigh in on the issues
District 15 Democrats will choose between Concord attorney Dan Feltes and Concord School Board member Kass Ardinger in a Sept. 9 primary. The district includes Concord, Henniker, Hopkinton and Warner. Here’s a breakdown of where they stand on some of the issues in this race:
First priority if elected:
∎ Dan Feltes: “I’m proud to put out here a proposal to establish a reasonable system of paid family leave to help working families and women get by in our economy. We have a 21st-century economy in the workplace, and we need a 21st-century workplace policy that allows women and working families to move forward and not get set back.”
∎ Kass Ardinger said she would like to join the education committee, where she would first look at lifting the moratorium on state building aid for local school boards. “That’s been in moratorium for three or four years now, and I know our city certainly benefited greatly. The issues faced by the Concord School Board are being faced now by school boards around the state.”
On minimum wage:
∎ Ardinger: “I think that allowing people to make a wage that allows families to have a roof over their head, pay rent and groceries, is very vitally important. . . . The availability of wages that allow more people to be consumers is useful for, I think, any business’ bottom line.”
∎ Feltes said he would support increasing the minimum wage because “increased minimum wage means more money in the pockets of working families, and we have a consumer-driver economy.” He suggested the starting point for negotiating a new minimum wage should be $10.10.
On casino gambling:
∎ Feltes: “New Hampshire has a revenue problem, not a spending problem. I don’t think it would be fiscally prudent to automatically take off the table any potential revenue options, and that would include expanded gambling.” But Feltes said his criteria for a casino bill is demanding; he would need to see adequate resources dedicated to treating gambling addiction and consideration for local entertainment venues like the Capitol Center for the Arts. He also questioned whether the revenue predictions thus far are accurate.
∎ Ardinger: “There are facts that are not knowable at this point to make a responsible decision.” Ardinger said she would be open to gambling as a source of revenue, but she does have questions about casinos in New Hampshire. For example, she said she doubts the current revenue estimates and wants clearer research on what money would be coming into the state from a casino.
On the death penalty:
∎ Ardinger: “I am absolutely in favor of repeal. . . . I believe that to bring the entire power of the state, the prosecutorial power of the state, to advance the extinguishment of a human life is something that should not be encompassed in our constitution.
“This is an issue that is more of a moral issue than probably any other issue that I can think of that comes before the Legislature. I think the conversation in the Senate was one of respect, certainly one of high emotion. You can’t take away from the discussion. How would you get someone to move off their position? I don’t know.”
∎ Feltes: “I would support a repeal of the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole. And I think the arguments you would make in this context to some of the (opposing) senators are financial arguments. The cost of going forward with pursuing the death penalty, compared to what we could be spending our money on.”
On full-day kindergarten:
∎ Feltes: One of Feltes’s priorities in this race has been early childhood development, and he said he would push for incentives for local communities across New Hampshire to institute full-day kindergarten. As an example, he pointed to Hopkinton, which will begin full-day kindergarten this fall. “Hopkinton’s experience is that it may actually save costs in the long run by educating kids and getting them a good start. . . . It’s an issue that goes to the core of providing educational and economic opportunity to low- and middle-income families.”
∎ Ardinger: When the Concord School Board considered full-day kindergarten, Ardinger did not support it at the time because local taxpayers would have born the brunt of its cost. “To say I would have any position other than supporting full-day kindergarten would be preposterous. I have looked at the new standards that are included in Common Core, and my impression is that the with those standards, it will be very difficult, with the half-day program we have now, for children to meet those standards. The question is not have I or have I not supported it in the Concord School District. The issue is funding. . . . There really was no room to add the costs of full-day kindergarten in those years.”
On new sources for revenue:
∎ Ardinger: While Ardinger said she would be open to all sources of revenue, she said she would not be likely to vote for a broad-based income tax. In part, she said she wouldn’t support one because the governor has promised to veto any such tax that comes to her desk. She did suggest investing in energy could provide new sources of revenue. “We can’t be the state that is constantly saying no to energy infrastructure.”
∎ Feltes: He suggested looking to capital gains, or the profit from a sale of property or an investment, as a source of new dollars in the budget. Because New Hampshire does not levy a personal income tax, the state has one of the lowest capital gains tax rates. “It could be structured in a way to incentivize investment and help job growth, but at the same time generate revenue,” he said.
On Northern Pass and energy:
∎ Feltes: “I think my position is essentially more or less consistent with the governor’s position. There is a possibility to get reliable hydropower from Quebec without sacrificing our tourism industry and our natural beauty.” Feltes said he does have visual concerns about Northern Pass and would like to see more line buried, and he wants to know more about the economic feasibility of a gas pipeline through New Hampshire.
∎ Ardinger: She has not taken a decisive position on Northern Pass or a natural gas pipeline through the state. She did say, however, she feels New Hampshire needs to be open to all sources of energy for the grid. “We don’t just put up our hands and say we’re going to say no to everything. We can’t do that. We’re going to be left behind if we do that.”
On women’s reproductive health:
∎ NARAL Pro-choice New Hampshire released a statement earlier this month, saying either Ardinger or Feltes would be “a pro-choice advocate for New Hampshire women in the State Senate.” Both candidates support the state’s buffer zone law and women’s access to affordable contraceptives.
On each other:
∎ Ardinger: “I distinguish myself on my public record, and my public record is as an elected official. . . . I have proven I am a leader and I could follow through. I also emphasize my longtime residence in Concord, in New Hampshire, the work I’ve been doing over the last 25 years.”
∎ Feltes: “I think voters should vote for me because I have a track record of standing up to powerful interests, both in court and in the state legislature. And I have the experience that I think I can deliver for ordinary people, for the little guy so to speak, for working people.”
The primary is Sept. 9. Lydia Harman of Warner has also filed to run as a Republican in the Nov. 4 general election. For information about each candidate, visit their campaign websites.
Ardinger: www.kass ardingerfornhsenate.com
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)