At community forum for primary race, District 15 state Senate candidates line up on the issues

Last modified: 7/30/2014 8:16:06 PM
The road to former state representative Christine Hamm’s house in Hopkinton last night was peppered with campaign signs. Purple and white for Concord School Board member Kass Ardinger; red, white and blue for Concord attorney Dan Feltes.

At the end of Hamm’s driveway were two tables staffed by supporters with spare signs. One table for Feltes, one table for Ardinger.

And inside the house, the candidates for state Senate matched up evenly on the issues as well.

More than 100 people gathered at Hamm’s house for a community forum with Ardinger and Feltes last night. In September, the two Democrats will be on the ballot for a primary to replace outgoing state Sen. Sylvia Larsen in District 15. The district, which Larsen has represented for 20 years, includes Concord, Henniker, Hopkinton and Warner.

Voters posed questions about Medicaid dollars for elective abortions and public funding for welfare programs. One listener asked about Northern Pass, which neither candidate has opposed. Another lobbed the casino question. Throughout the evening, the two often agreed with each other.

Gambling

∎ Ardinger: “I would not take a pledge for or against expanding gambling until I know at leave five more facts.” Those facts, she said, would include accurate estimates on the revenue from casino gambling and the more specific details of the proposal on the table.

∎ Feltes: “I’m not going to take any revenue option off the table. I think it’s fiscally imprudent to do so.” He said he was sensitive, however, to the need to treat gambling addiction and protect other entertainment venues such as the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord.

Northern Pass

∎ Feltes: “I think that (Gov. Maggie Hassan) has said something that is prudent, which is that it is still possible to get reliable hydropower from Quebec without sacrificing our tourism industry and without sacrificing our natural beauty.”

∎ Ardinger: “We have an over-reliance on one source of energy, which is natural gas. We experienced the price spikes last winter. That will only continue if we don’t diversify the source of electricity that goes into the New England grid.”

Legalization of marijuana

∎ Feltes said he is supportive of medical marijuana and decriminalization of marijuana, and he would not immediately take legalization off the table. “I think at this point, it’s important to study what’s going on in Colorado and in Washington (state) and to figure out whether or not we could have a New Hampshire-based solution to consider. . . . I think we’re a ways away from that.”

∎ Ardinger said she would be in favor of decriminalization of marijuana, but she also wants more study on legalization. “I would be slower to go there, and I certainly would want to have some process by which we look at states that have already done it and analyze how those states are doing,” she said.

Feltes and Ardinger did, however, offer their different personal stories to the crowd. Feltes is a 35-year-old Granite State transplant who has worked at New Hampshire Legal Assistance for eight years. Ardinger, a 54-year-old New Hampshire native, has spent many years caring for a daughter who survived a life-threatening disease as a child, as well as serving on the Concord School Board. Feltes, in particular, touted his experience as a lobbyist and his work with middle- to low-income clients. Ardinger highlighted her experience with public education and her role in building three new elementary schools in the city.

“I am running for state Senate because I know . . . we can’t afford to leave anybody behind,” Feltes said.

“I went to law school to become a lawyer, but it was my life experiences that taught me to be an advocate,” Ardinger said.

Janet Ward of Hopkinton, one of the hosts, said she remembered a community forum at Hamm’s house when former state senator Jackie Cilley and Hassan were competing for the Democratic nomination in the 2012 gubernatorial race. The forum allowed voters to ask questions of the candidates, Ward said, so she suggested Hamm host a similar event before the state Senate primary.

The benefit, Ward said, was really to undecided voters like herself.

“We are extremely fortunate as voters to have such a difficult choice,” Ward said.

The primary is Sept. 9. Lydia Harman of Warner has also filed to run as a Republican 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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