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Emphasis is on education in state Senate District 8 GOP primary

  • Beard

  • Ward

Monitor staff
Published: 9/7/2016 12:09:47 AM

Republican voters in state Senate District 8 will choose between two candidates in next week’s primary – one coming off a failed 2014 bid for state representative, and the other running for state office for the first time.

Ruth Ward of Stoddard and Jim Beard of Lempster agree on a handful of issues, but they differ in their emphasis on those issues and how pressing they are to the state.

One example is education. Ward would like to see school districts wield more control locally, while Beard stresses an importance for schools to help students develop technical skills that can be applied to a trade. Beard is originally from Keene and his father was an industrial arts teacher at Monadnock Regional High School in Swanzey.

“Not all of our graduates are destined to go to college,” Beard told the Monitor. “I don’t feel we are giving that percentage the right skills with which to enter the labor force directly. Back in the 1950s and ’60s we had strong industrial arts programs and home (economics). This is where we taught young people how to work with their hands, how to make things.”

Ward, a retired nurse practitioner who has called Stoddard home since 1995, opposes Common Core and says parents, teachers and school boards should make the decisions on how to educate children.

Ward is originally from Sweden; she came to the United States in 1959 as an exchange student and worked at Boston Children’s Hospital. She followed politics closely, but could not participate as a voter until earning her citizenship in 1969. Ward said she was a Democrat at first, but she eventually changed her allegiance to the GOP.

“I was a Democrat in the beginning, and then I found out I was a Republican,” Ward said. “I raised my kids to be responsible and stand on their own two feet, and we kept a budget within our means. I began to realize that is how the Republicans look at things. Give people help when they really need it, and not just handouts.”

That is how she sees some parts of the Medicaid expansion program. Although Ward said she is not privy to the details of Medicaid expansion to present an elaborate opinion, she said she suspects there is “a lot of fraud” and the requirements for eligibility are too loose. But she added, “There is a segment of the population that definitely needs it.”

Beard takes a stronger stance against the program, which was reauthorized in March for the next two years and will come up again in the next legislative session.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” Beard said, adding that he expects the cost to climb aggressively each year.

Ward and Beard support medical marijuana but reject the notion of it being legal for recreational use. Both view full legalization as a pathway to further drug use, which they say would fly in the face of the state’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis.

Neither candidate has explicit critiques of how the state has managed the opioid problem that, as of Aug. 11, had claimed 196 lives due to overdose this year. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner projects that number will climb to about 500 before year’s end.

“It’s a crisis we weren’t prepared for,” Beard said. “Not just New Hampshire; the entire country was not prepared for it. Right now we’re only treating the symptoms.”

The District 8 seat has been vacant since former Republican senator Jerry Little was confirmed as banking commissioner in April. Before Little, who was elected in 2014, the seat was held by Bob Odell of Lempster for 12 years.

Reached last week, Odell would not share who he favors in the primary, saying he has been “pretty much hands off” since opting not to seek re-election in 2014. Sharing a town with Beard, Odell said he encouraged him to pursue the seat.

“I did encourage him,” Odell said. “But it’s an open seat and both have an equal chance.”

Little didn’t return a call asking if he is endorsing a candidate.

Since retiring in 1995, Ward has served on the Stoddard zoning board and chaired the planning board. Beard, who’s career in the aviation industry took him to Europe and the Middle East before returning to New Hampshire, was chairman of the Lempster Conservation Commission and the library trustees.

The winner of the primary will face Democrat John Garvey of New London and independent John Jeskevicius of Weare in the general election.

District 8 includes Acworth, Antrim, Bennington, Bradford, Croydon, Deering, Francestown, Goshen, Grantham, Hillsboro, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, Newbury, New London, Newport, Springfield, Stoddard, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Washington, Weare and Windsor.

(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3309, nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)

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