Cady brings the experience and fire to fight; Dean-Bailey brings youthful energy and a fresh start

  • Cady

Monitor staff
Published: 9/12/2016 12:13:07 AM

Rep. Yvonne Dean-Bailey and Harriet Cady face off in Tuesday’s GOP primary for the state House seat in Rockingham County District 32, and the difference in their ages is impossible to ignore.

Cady, who served in the House from 2002 to ’06, is 73. Dean-Bailey, the incumbent who won a special election last year after Brian Dobson left to work for Frank Guinta, is 20.

Which means, of course, that Cady’s record is well known, and she has ruffled feathers along the way, while also championing the public’s right to know like few others ever have. Her life’s work, covering 40 years, can be summed up in three words: freedom of information. It’s pushed her to run again.

“I’m aware that unless you’re there to argue points of right to know and you’re knowledgeable about it, you can’t really get the legislators educated about it,” said Cady, a part-time real estate agent.

Cady called herself a fiscal conservative who believes, “We as a society owe care to our children, and if it means money being spent on early childhood, then we must spend it, and then for the elderly who can no longer work or care for themselves.”

Still, Cady will forever be known for her never-ending battle to pry information loose. She’s been dubbed Mrs. Right to Know by some, and she was honored last year by the New England First Amendment Coalition.

She began fighting for transparency in local government and school districts in the 1970s, when she said she told school officials in Raymond that one of her sons had been diagnosed with a learning disability.

But when school officials met privately, without Cady, and then told her there was no special education available for her son, she pounced, citing, of all things, the law.

“They had violated the right-to-know law by going into nonpublic session to make the decision about me and never asked me permission to meet,” Cady said.

She’s been a watchdog ever since, rolling up her sleeves and getting dirty. “I don’t like calling it a confrontation,” Cady said. “I like to say I’m willing to debate my ideas against yours.”

She’s most proud of her involvement in two specific challenges: Miller vs. the Fremont school board, which opened emails to public scrutiny and pushed to exchange school information through public meetings; and Cioffi vs. Sanbornton, which forced town officials to sign checks for taxpayer business in a public forum so everyone knew how every penny was being spent.

“I like the fact that something I took to court became a precedent-setting case,” Cady said.

She’s been on the losing side as well, including the time Judge Will Delker, in response to a Cady claim that board of selectmen meetings in Deerfield were too secretive, called her suit “frivolous.”

But Cady hasn’t lost her fire to fight, which she says is why she’s trying to return to the House after 10 years.

“I think our founders sent a message that we had to know our government if we were to remain a free country,” Cady said. “You need the first amendment and the right to government records to be sure government is doing only what they are allowed to do.”

That sort of passion, Cady said, is what led her to challenge Dean-Bailey, who left college after her freshman year to work in sales at a printing company and serve in state government.

Earlier this year, Cady supported House Bill 1144, which created an open and more accessible forum with which to monitor checklist supervisors, thereby guarding against voter fraud. Cady said she contacted Dean-Bailey, by then already a House member, to discuss it.

“She has never called me back,” said Cady, who added, “She is a nice girl, she wants to be involved, she has an edge, but experience matters to the degree that you have to be knowledgeable enough to get up on the floor and argue your point, and I don’t believe Yvonne yet has the experience or knowledge.”

When asked if Cady had indeed called her regarding right-to-know issues, Dean-Bailey said, “No. I’ve heard from Harriet since I have been a state rep very few times. The other state reps in our district who I’ve spoken to, she’s criticized them for the same thing on this specific issue, and none of us have heard from her.”

Dean-Bailey, who left Mount Holyoke College after her freshman year, works in sales and beat Democrat Maureen Mann last spring in a special election for a vacant House seat.

She made headlines along the way, first after heavyweights like U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former presidential candidate and Texas governor Rick Perry joined her on the campaign trail; and next, when an email, written by a Mann campaign worker, had been sent to the media falsely claiming Dean-Bailey was withdrawing from the race.

And while Dean-Bailey said she has no political ambitions beyond the state level, she said she’s already proven a lot with her victory over the more experienced Mann, a retired high school teacher who won a special election in 2007 and was re-elected in ’08 and ’12.

“My opponent was much more experienced than I was,” Dean-Bailey said. “I think my fresh perspective is definitely an asset. I grew up with a 21st century education and I also have a ton of energy. I like talking to people and like to hear what they have to say.”

She’s passionate about education, saying, “What is really important to me is school choice and having the ability to choose what school you want regardless of your zip code, giving parents and students better choices for what works for them.”

And while Cady hopes her fight for local transparency will lead her to the state House, Dean-Bailey said her overall knowledge covers more ground.

“My biggest asset is being able to talk to people,” Dean-Bailey said. “I’m not a singular person on issues. My goal is to listen to everyone and represent a broad range of views.”

 

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304, rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)




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