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Campaign Monitor

State Senate candidates challenge each other on the issues at District 15 forum

As the rest of the crowd filtered out of Sweeney Hall at NHTI in Concord last night, George and Sally Chase remained in their seats.

The Hopkinton residents, both 82, were pondering the 90-minute forum they had just heard with state Senate candidates Kass Ardinger and Dan Feltes.

“Actually, I changed my vote,” George Chase said. “I was edging over to Kass, and now I’m edging over to Dan.”

While both candidates were thoughtful and passionate, he said, Feltes’s ideas seemed more concrete.

“He can implement them effectively in the Senate,” he said.

One of their friends, however, shook her head: “I’m so torn,” she said.

Ardinger and Feltes are the two Democrats on the ballot in the primary for the District 15 state Senate seat, which has been held by Democrat Sen. Sylvia Larsen for the past 20 years. The district includes Concord, Henniker, Hopkinton and Warner. More than 50 people attended last night’s forum to ask questions of the candidates – and to hear the candidates publicly pose questions to each other for the first time.

Feltes, 35, pushed his experience with low-income and elderly clients at New Hampshire Legal Assistance and his ideas for revenue options such as capital gains. Ardinger, 54, emphasized her experience in building consensus as an elected official and her support for public education on the Concord School Board.

“There’s different approaches to being a state senator,” Feltes said. “There’s a more proactive approach, and there’s other approaches. I’m not running to be a state senator. I’m running to be in the state Senate to get things done for everyday people.”

“For me, this campaign for state Senate is about public service, not politics,” Ardinger said. “My goal in this race is simply to extend my very gratifying experience with local public service to a broader state platform.”

Once they fielded questions about energy policies and revenue options for New Hampshire, Ardinger and Feltes challenged each other on past experiences that could translate to their respective styles in the State House.

Feltes criticized Ardinger, for example, on full-day kindergarten. While Ardinger and the Concord School Board designed and built three new elementary schools, they did not put a full-day kindergarten program in place in the city. Ardinger has said she believes full-day kindergarten will become necessary for children in the future under Common Core standards, however. As one of his priorities, Feltes has campaigned on his desire to see the state incentivize full-day kindergarten in New Hampshire.

“I believe the best investments we can make are the investments we make in our kids,” Feltes said.

Ardinger questioned Feltes’s endorsements from several labor unions, including the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire and the State Employees’ Association, that support casino gambling; she asked whether he could vote independently of their interests should a casino bill come to the floor of the Senate.

“I am more reluctant on gambling than your position,” Feltes said, explaining he would not vote for a bill that did not meet certain criteria. He said his demands would include adequate treatment for gambling addiction, safeguards against proliferation of casinos, and protection for the Capitol Center for the Arts.

The moderator asked Ardinger whether she would like to state her own position on gambling. “I’m afraid Mr. Feltes might have put some words in your mouth on that,” she said.

“Yes, that’s been happening tonight,” Ardinger said. Before she could support casino gambling in New Hampshire, Ardinger said she would need to know more accurate revenue estimates, as well as more about treatment for gambling addiction and other local entertainment venues.

The primary is Sept. 9. Republican Lydia Harman of Warner has also filed to run in the general election. The full replay of last night’s forum will be available online at yourconcordtv.org or on public access Channel 22.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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