Forrester says National Guard could be used to help fight state’s drug problem

  • Jeanie Forrester told the “Monitor” that she would consider deploying the National Guard to help deal with the drug crisis. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 8/16/2016 12:16:49 AM

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanie Forrester said the state needs to get serious about the drug epidemic – so serious that she would consider deploying the New Hampshire National Guard to help deal with it.

Forrester, a state senator from Meredith, said as governor, she would consider sending National Guard members to patrol New Hampshire’s northern border with Canada and its southern border with Massachusetts.

Forrester said she’s especially concerned with New Hampshire police being able to effectively cover the large amount of land in the North Country. But she would also consider talking with state and local police about getting assistance to help stop the flow of drugs coming up from Massachusetts, where most heroin and fentanyl enters the Granite State.

“I don’t think it would be a duplication,” Forrester said. “Whether it’s drugs or any other issue, at least on the northern border, I think it’s important for law enforcement to have that coverage.”

She said the notion of using the military as part of civil law enforcement doesn’t trouble her.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Forrester said, adding that the state needs to send drug cartels and dealers a message “that we’re serious about this issue, and it’s got to stop.”

Likewise, Forrester wants to increase the maximum sentence for high-level drug dealers convicted in New Hampshire to a lifetime in prison without parole.

She said if done properly, the move would deter drug dealers from coming into the state and wouldn’t significantly increase the prison population.

“They know right up front that if they get caught, they’re going to jail for life,” she said. “My attempt would be to get them to stop selling in New Hampshire so they would not come to New Hampshire.”

As governor, she said she would fully fund the long-depleted alcohol fund – a slice of profits from the New Hampshire Liquor Commission meant to go toward substance abuse treatment and prevention.

Historically, the money has been diverted to fund other state programs.

When it comes to treatment, Forrester said the state should find ways other than expanded Medicaid to help New Hampshire’s low-income population.

Forrester voted for Medicaid expansion in 2014, but she voted against it earlier this year over concerns about a lack of work requirements and the state’s growing financial contribution to the program. Instead of a federally funded health care option, she favors health savings accounts and a volunteer health care system where doctors provide free care to low-income patients in exchange for indemnity and free continuing medical education from the government.

Forrester said she’s examining a similar system in Florida, but has yet to see whether it could work in a state like New Hampshire.

“People are still falling through the cracks, I see it every day,” she said of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. “Clearly it’s not working. We need a New Hampshire solution.”

Forrester, along with state Rep. Frank Edelblut, has established herself as the conservative alternative to Republican rivals Ted Gatsas, the Manchester mayor, and Chris Sununu, an executive councilor. But she said she is open to discussion on a number of issues that will require more state money, including reinstating the school building aid program and full-day kindergarten.

She presents herself first and foremost as a champion for New Hampshire’s small towns and communities. Forrester served for many years as a town administrator and first entered into state politics seven years ago because she felt towns were being left behind by the state.

On Monday, Forrester said that feeling hasn’t changed.

“What I have seen is more and more power taken away from small businesses, communities and individuals,” she said. “We need someone in the corner office who’s going to fight for the people.”

Forrester was adamant that she would never seek an office higher than governor, and she took the opportunity to blast Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is currently running for U.S. Senate.

“This governor, since she got into office, she’s been running for the U.S. Senate,” Forrester said. “I never have had interest in anything other than the state of New Hampshire.”

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, or on Twitter

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