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Campaign Monitor

In District 15 debate, primary candidates say they would lead differently in legislature

Where Democrats Kass Ardinger and Dan Feltes line up on the issues in the District 15 state Senate primary, they stand apart in style.

And just days before voters will choose between the two, the candidates highlighted that difference at a debate last night at New England College.

Ardinger looked back to advice she received eight years ago, when she was new to the Concord School Board.

“Come in without an agenda, work hard, listen, be ready to roll up your sleeves and work with everybody else,” she said.

That approach would translate to the state Senate, Ardinger said.

“I would spend quite a bit of time learning the budget and understanding the ins and outs of how it all works together before I would necessarily propose legislation,” Ardinger said. “I want to be sure that I have the basics under my belt first.”

Feltes, however, said his approach would be more proactive.

“I’m going with an agenda,” Feltes said. “It’s a progressive agenda to help working families; it’s a progressive agenda to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

He touted his experience in the State House as a lobbyist for New Hampshire Legal Assistance.

“I’m going to hit the ground running,” Feltes said. “I’m going to put the proposals out there. I’m going to negotiate, and we’re going to move the ball forward.”

The candidates took several questions from panelists on a range of issues, including health care and student debt. Both are cautious but open to expanded gambling, supportive of finding more money for the state’s mental health system and in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. When pressed on revenue options, Feltes turned to his ideas for a capital gains tax.

“It hasn’t been debated in some time,” Feltes said. “But my whole suggestion is we could generate about $170 million a year.”

Ardinger said she would be open to that idea, but she said she would have questions about the revenue estimates and the impact on small businesses. She also questioned Feltes’s approach to creating a new tax.

“I think coming in and raising the flag and saying, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’ that’s not exactly how the Senate works,” Ardinger said.

When questioned about how to increase the gas tax in the future, Ardinger said she was disappointed New Hampshire waited more than two decades to increase its gas tax. If elected, she said she would like to see a 10-year maintenance plan drafted for the state’s roads and bridges.

“You’ve got to make the plan, and you’ve got to fund it, and you’ve got to do it in a timely way,” she said.

Feltes again cited his experience in the state Legislature, saying he would push to bring in more money for New Hampshire’s budget. Being open to new sources of revenue isn’t enough, he said.

“We’re Democrats in one of the most progressive state Senate districts in the state,” Feltes said. “If we don’t step up and lead, who will?”

The primary is Tuesday. The winner will face Republican Lydia Harman of Warner in the November general election.

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

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