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Little, Marzullo split on death penalty in District 8 Senate race

  • Jerry Little

    Jerry Little

  • Jerry Little

JP Marzullo might not be a household name, but for anyone living in Senate District 8, which includes Weare, Deering and New London, the blue-and-gold bow ties are probably familiar by now. Between the fliers, the business cards and the roadside posters, the former Deering selectman’s trademark seems to be popping up everywhere these days.

Marzullo, a retired marketing director, is one of two Republicans vying for the seat of outgoing state Sen. Bob Odell. His opponent, Jerry Little of Weare, also appears hard at

work, having knocked on more than a thousand doors, he said, in this expansive 24-town district.

Neither Marzullo nor Little, who is the former president and CEO of the New Hampshire Bankers Association, have direct legislative experience. But both have been politically active – Little through his work with the association; Marzullo as the former vice chairman of the state Republican Party and a co-founder of the Contoocook Valley Republican Committee.

Odell, a New London Republican, has been a key swing vote in the state Senate. He voted in favor of Medicaid expansion, a move that has since been chastised by the far right, and supported repealing the death penalty, a measure he had long supported. The repeal effort ultimately failed because of deadlock.

Marzullo and Little split over the death penalty. Marzullo said he is anti-abortion and opposes the death penalty accordingly.

“I would lean toward listening to everyone first,” he explained. “But I do think that (if you abide by) the Constitution, and if you’re pro-life, that you have to look at it a different way.”

Little believes the penalty is constitutional and has been used with appropriate scrutiny in New Hampshire. But he said he has struggled with the issue morally. Ultimately, though, he said he supports the measure because it’s a deterrent and because there is a difference between murdering an innocent person and killing certain convicted murderers. He is also pro-abortion rights and said he wants to be “consistent in my approach to life, to ethics and to the Constitution.”

Little, 59, is a Concord native and worked as a radio journalist and assignment editor at WMUR before becoming a press secretary for Gov. John Sununu. He later joined the bankers association and was named president two years later. Little also served as executive director of the association’s insurance trust. He retired in 2011, is married and has a grown daughter and a young grandchild.

Little said he has worked closely with legislators over the years, and he has grown to respect the many difficult decisions they make. “Have I always wanted to do this? No,” he said. “Have I always admired the people who do it? Yes.”

Little and Marzullo are both intent on growing the state’s economy. Little believes the way to do this is in large part through changes to the local energy and health care industries. He said he’s unsatisfied with the current Northern Pass proposal, but is realistic that the state needs a viable energy alternative if it’s intent on phasing out fossil fuels. Wind power and conservation alone aren’t likely to fill the gap, he said.

“Canadian hydro(power) has become synonymous with Northern Pass through the debates in New Hampshire,” Little said. “But that’s not the only option.”

Marzullo said he’s also unconvinced that wind power or the current Northern Pass proposal are appropriate solutions, “but we clearly need to find a way to lower energy costs in the state.”

Marzullo moved to New Hampshire from Maryland about 11 years ago, and was a registered independent until 2008. He started the Contoocook Valley Republican Committee in 2009, then became an area vice chairman for the state party and later state vice chairman, a role from which he stepped down in June when he announced his candidacy. He declined to give his age because he said it’s irrelevant.

Marzullo and his wife, Donna, have operated a small hot dog stand at the Henniker Farm and Country Store on weekends for the past five years. Marzullo said he grew up in a large Italian family, where “confrontation is a sport.” He is married and has a grown son who teaches yoga and who Marzullo said he sometimes disagrees with – but always respectfully.

“That’s why I think I’ll really be a good senator,” he said, “because you have to listen to all sides, and then make what you think is the right decision.”

Marzullo and Little have similar stances on several issues. They both oppose casino gambling. They both support medical marijuana, oppose legalizing consumer pot and are open to the possibility of decriminalizing it in some instances. They both claim to be staunch Second Amendment advocates. They both oppose increasing the minimum wage. And they both oppose Common Core. (Little said he does support standardized testing, while Marzullo said he opposes it.)

On health care, each candidate said he wants a more open insurance market.

“We need to get more competition in this state,” Little said, “and the way you’re going to get more competition in this state is to start to make mandated benefits and coverage more reasonable. If we continually mandate more and more and more benefits that insurance carriers must cover, they’re simply going to keep increasing the rates.”

Marzullo said people “should be able to buy health insurance like car insurance – able to go online, look for the best price.” He said he would support repealing Medicaid expansion, “but before we repeal it, I think we need to have a solution for it.”

Little said he thought the Medicaid expansion bill was ill-conceived because it guaranteed coverage before ensuring that the state received the federal money it was promised.

“So we’ve sort of lost any leverage we have with the federal government,” he said. “We have to hope that they come through with the waivers. But if they don’t, the next Legislature’s in a real bind.”

The solution, Little said, will likely require compromise.

“We have to make government work for the people of New Hampshire, whether it’s energy supply or health care,” he said. “We need to be realistic about it, and everyone needs to come to the table, and everyone needs to talk. And everyone’s probably going to have to give a little.”

Both Little and Marzullo said they want to make it easier for businesses big and small to thrive in the state. Marzullo said that starts with reducing restrictions on mom-and-pop stores.

“We have to take care of them first, because, quite frankly, we have what, 30,000 or more small businesses in the state of New Hampshire?” he said.

“If they’re not successful, what motivates other companies to move here?”

Marzullo has far less money than Little heading into the Sept. 9 primary. He has raised about $12,000 to date and has $2,000 cash on hand, according to his campaign finance report filed this week. Little has raised $46,000, and has about $24,000 cash on hand.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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