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For N.H. Senate District 2 candidates, drug addiction requires more understanding, less jail time

  • —Authentic Eye Photography

Monitor staff
Published: 9/10/2016 12:37:09 AM

When it comes to fighting opioid addiction, perhaps the biggest problem facing the state, the candidates eyeing the Republican nomination for the District 2 senate seat agree.

But only to a point.

Bob Giuda of Warren and Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton said treatment would be a better solution than prison, adding that compassion should be part of the mix.

But while Rep. Gallagher, who has 30 years experience in public finances, said the decriminalization of drugs is out of the question, Giuda, a former Marine fighter pilot and three-term member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, said the war on drugs has been a flop and he’s intrigued by the potential benefits of decriminalization.

“If the facts support it and the public supports it, we should look at it,” Giuda said. “But I’m opposed to it presently.”

The two candidates, on the ballot for next week’s primary, hope to face Democratic nominee Charlie Chandler in November. District 2 Senator Jeanie Forrester is running for the Republican nomination for governor.

Drug addiction presented the sharpest contrast between the two candidates. Giuda said he’s seen the fight against drugs up close as a former FBI agent, based in Denver, working for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

His stance on drug dealers remains tough, but he said ignoring what’s happened in other countries would not be smart, and he used Portugal as a model.

The European nation decriminalized drugs 15 years ago and has seen a decline in overdose deaths and drug use, according to a report by the Washington Post last spring. Underworld crime, Giuda noted, is also down there.

“What we need to do is look at it,” Giuda said. “We spent over a trillion dollars in 35 years in a process that has utterly failed. Today drugs are better, more available and cheaper. We have failed miserably.”

Giuda said he researched the problem through meetings with the chiefs of police in Belknap and Grafton Counties, as well as Maria Ryan, the CEO at Cottage Hospital in Woodsville.

“We need to focus more on treatment,” Giuda said. “We’re spending $56,000 a year for incarcerating an inmate at Grafton County (Department of Corrections), and it’s much better to spend that money on treatment, and we need to do that because jailing people isn’t working.”

Gallagher agrees that prison might not be the answer, and he spoke favorably about a recent bill that gave judges more discretion for first-time drug offenders.

“That way someone won’t get caught up in the judicial system,” Gallagher said. “We need small incremental steps to deal with the criminal impact on a person. We have to be compassionate with people, not send them to jail and throw the key away. We have to extend a helping hand out with a caveat of responsibility.”

The candidates’ backgrounds, they said, show what they have to offer. Giuda attended the Naval Academy, was a captain in the Marines and flew jets. Now he’s an airline pilot who’s retiring in February, when he turns 65. His past, he said, translates into qualities that will help him lead.

“Experience, leadership, Judgment is what I bring,” Giuda said. “As a Marine officer, leadership is what it’s about.”

Meanwhile, Gallagher said his experience crafting a state budget under four governors, working for the business arm of the State Supreme Court, and his current role as a state rep who sits on the Ways and Means Revenue Committee mean he’ll spend wisely.

“I look at spending responsibly in putting together a balanced financial plan with realistic and identifiable revenue sources,” Gallagher said.

In education, Gallagher, who worked as the business manager in the Newfound School District, said too many federal mandates and regulations are handcuffing the state’s teachers, while Giuda believes high school graduates are woefully unqualified for today’s job market.

“Businesses have told me our pool of students have no understanding of our economic system we live in, no comprehension of our political system,” said Giuda, who works on the Warren school board. “The heck with common core, we need established standards, a written test, the same test immigrants have to pass to become a citizen. We need a screening process that holds kids and schools accountable.”

Elsewhere, both candidates opposed Medicaid expansion, agreeing it was not sustainable or practical. “Cut out the layer of federal and state bureaucracy,” Gallagher said, “to get the monies to the folks who need it, and get it to the local health organizations. It won’t work under the current configuration.”

Giuda noted his conservative stance on taxes, saying he led the “charge in stopping (former Gov.) Jeanne Shaheen’s excel sales tax and I led the charge in stopping Mark Fernald’s income tax. That’s leadership.”

Both candidate have created controversial headlines. Giuda said the “liberal media” unfairly portrayed his stance on gay marriage six years ago, using the term “beastiality” when Giuda said he was simply using hyperbole to make a point. He said his stance on the issue has changed since then. He said the state should not define marriage.

“It was hypothetical discussion about the issue of marriage,” Giuda said. “I never said ‘beastiality.’ I think I said men and dogs, and women and sheep. I could have said men and houses, and women with pots and pans, meaning inanimate objects.”

Meanwhile, Gallagher caused a stir recently when he sponsored a bill banning women from appearing topless in public, a right some women said referred to equal justice under the law.

Gallagher, however, believed those involved had a broader purpose in mind. “If you want to pursue this, be prepared that this group will be pursuing an agenda of toplessness at UNH football games,” Gallagher said. “Why should we stop them from doing it at the elementary school soccer games, why should we stop them from going into public libraries?”

When reminded the movement sought the same rights as men and nothing more, Gallagher said, “Thank you for that correction, but if you look at research, you can look at the public biking trails in Vermont where they are going topless.

“It’s only a seed for the whole big thing.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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