Garcia’s anti-casino vote takes spotlight in 2nd Congressional District campaign
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kronayne.)