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Garcia’s anti-casino vote takes spotlight in 2nd Congressional District campaign

Rep. Marilinda Garcia, of Salem.

Rep. Marilinda Garcia, of Salem.

State Rep. Marilinda Garcia’s vote against bringing casinos to New Hampshire is generating significant attention in her bid for the Republican nomination in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District, despite the fact that expanded gambling is a state issue, not a federal one.

Steve Duprey, on behalf of Casino Free New Hampshire, held a press conference yesterday to praise Garcia for voting against an expanded gambling bill this session. The conference was prompted by criticism from other Salem representatives who voted in favor of casino gambling and are now backing Garcia’s primary opponent, former state senator Gary Lambert. Duprey, who is a Republican National Committeeman, said the praise for Garcia was not an endorsement from him or Casino Free New Hampshire. Opposing expanded gambling is part of the Republican Party platform, Duprey noted.

“When we see people trying to promote one candidate or another, whether it’s for federal office or state office, and using as a wedge their vote on gambling, we’re going to speak up in defense of those who we thought voted the right way for New Hampshire, regardless of their political philosophy, regardless of their political party,” Duprey said.

The conference came just an hour after a press conference by the Salem representatives backing Lambert, during which they hit Garcia for her anti-casino vote. Lambert, who is from Nashua, sent out a statement last month after the two-casino proposal failed, saying it was a missed opportunity to create jobs. In March, 80 percent of voters in Salem voted in favor of expanding gambling at Rockingham Park in a nonbinding referendum. Neither of the major casino bills this session specified that a casino would be in Salem, but Rockingham Park was considered a likely location.

Garcia, 31, is serving her fourth term as a Salem representative and has never supported casinos. Although she voted this year against a two-casino bill that lost in the House by one vote, she missed an earlier vote on a bill to legalize one casino.

She missed several other key votes this session, including on bills to raise the minimum wage and expand access to private health insurance for low-income people through use of federal Medicaid dollars.

Duprey declined to comment on Garcia’s missed votes, and she was not in attendance at the press conference to answer questions.

“I am only here because we who have been opposed to a casino appreciate the fact that somebody in Salem had the courage to stand up to what we think was great local pressure,” he said.

Rep. Joe Sweeney, a Salem Republican working on the Lambert campaign, said that yesterday’s press conference was about showing support for Lambert, not tearing down Garcia. But, he noted, some people in Salem weren’t happy with her casino vote. Although casinos are a state, not federal, issue, Sweeney said her vote against casinos shows that she wasn’t listening to her constituents.

“On a slew of federal issues it would be nice to know the person we have in Washington is someone we can trust to represent us,” Sweeney said in a phone interview.

Lambert also took a jab at Garcia during the press conference.

“When I take a tough vote in Congress, I won’t need the GOP establishment to defend me in my own hometown,” he said, according to his spokesman.

Garcia’s campaign said the “personal” attacks show her campaign is gaining momentum.

“Democrats and Gary Lambert have launched increasingly desperate attacks against Marilinda as it becomes clear that her new generation, conservative message has seized the momentum in this race,” said Tom Szold, her campaign manager.

Garcia and Lambert will face off in a Sept. 9 primary for the right to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Legacy Comments14

Does Kuster support gambling? I don't think so.

So what? She voted her conscience and to be honest to vote straight party line (like Democrats always do) is pretty shallow. Congrats to Marilinda, good vote for what you felt was right.

So what, you say? Well, if the voters of Salem disagree with their rep then she won't be their rep much longer. That's what. As I said below, these reps should be aware of what their constituents want and vote accordingly.

Sounds like a Rino to me.

Itsa, you are so Democrat-phobic! Voters and politicians span a broad range of opinions on either end of the spectrum. Of course I would expect representatives to vote their conscience on every single bill that comes before them. For some, that will be the same as the "party line" no matter which party they are in. For others, it will coincide with the "party line" 70% or 80% or 90% of the time. I would certainly expect Dems to vote Dem most of the time and Republicans to do likewise, not because they are lemmings but because those are the positions they hold in the first place. If you have stats proving that Democrats "always" vote straight party I sure would like to see them. I'd also like to see the stats for Republicans in that regard.

The only problem with Republicans is if they don't vote the party line, they either get demonized or primaried. Look what is happening to the Rep senators that voted for Medicaid expansion. look at the tea party knocking out moderate Republicans in national elections because they tried to compromise with Democrats.

Tillie, you're right on that. I think ultimately it will be counterproductive for the far right, because they will drive the moderate voters to the Dems. I'm old enough to remember a time back in the '60s and '70s when the radical left did that to some fine Democrats. And we wound up with Nixon in the White House. I see the same dynamic going on now, but on the right.

Looks like these representatives must be reminded that they are expected to represent the people who elected them - and vote accordingly. As for the casino issue, both state senators and representatives have that same expectation, but each group voted differently. So, one of those groups has decidedly NOT voted according to the will of the people they represent! The only way the casino question will be settled is by popular vote. Seeing as I hate politics, I don't know what it will take to make that happen, but I do know those who would oppose it are those who know their vote was against the will of the people they represent.

Not always. i expect my representatives to do what they think is right whenever there is a conflict between constituent sentiment and one's own beliefs. Sometimes, voting requires an extra dash of courage because it may defy the popular will. In an ideal world, legislators are elected to make the tough decisions, and hope that voters come around.

Bruce, I agree. Another factor in this for me is that I find it almost impossible to find a candidate with whom I agree on every single issue. The casino question is a particular case in point. In the general election I voted for candidates who favored casinos because their stated positions aligned more closely with me on most other questions. But that doesn't mean I favor casinos. I most definitely do not.

Garcia made the right vote. We don't need a casino. Maybe 15-20 years ago it would've made sense. But now the market is saturated.

Dan, I agree with you on this. And if a majority of her constituents in Salem disagree with her, they have the right to vote against her in the next election

National Debt gone from 10 tillion to $$$$$17 TRILLION under democrats last 5 years. Economy contracted last quarter and could slide into another recession. Garcia voting record shows she is fiscally responsible candidate. Gambling is a non federal issue and is simply another democrat tax and spend scheme. Garcia is right on the issues for thinking NH citizens with a heritage of frugal, self responsibility, common sense spending (until democrats got voted in of course)

Bestie, as usual you are obsessed with making everything into a Democrat versus Republican issue. In so doing you undermine whatever credibility you may have. The casino question is most definitely NOT a party line issue. There are proponents and opponents aplenty in both parties. I happen to agree with Ms. Garcia on this particular issue, but I disagree on many others.

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