Liberal group: At least 30 Free Staters running for office

  • The State House dome as seen on March 5, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ

Monitor staff
Published: 11/2/2016 1:15:06 AM

Dunbarton Republican state Rep. JR Hoell was named an “honorary” Free Stater by a liberal group Tuesday because he has advanced libertarian efforts in New Hampshire.

Hoell is just fine with the label, even though he moved to the state for its “Live Free or Die” attitude before the Free State Project existed.

“I honestly share some of their beliefs,” he said. “I think our government has gotten very intrusive into the lives of individuals, and I don’t think that’s healthy.”

The liberal group, Granite State Progress, is politically opposed to the efforts of the Free State Project and has been tracking its members since 2008, saying they hide their true intentions when campaigning.

It published a list online Tuesday of 30 candidates for public office it says are affiliated with the Free State Project.

Hoell said the list might backfire, however, because voters like him will be more likely to support a Free State Project-affiliated candidate – not less.

“Granite State Progress can do whatever they want to advertise for the Free State Project,” he said.

The Free State Project is a 15-year-old political migration that reached its goal earlier this year of getting 20,000 liberty-loving people to agree to move to New Hampshire, where they’ll seek to reduce the effect of government on people’s lives.

About 2,000 among that group have already moved – the rest pledged to do so by February 2021 – and some have served multiple terms as state representatives.

Zandra Rice-Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, said her organization keeps a list of Free Staters running for office because its members see them as extremists who don’t disclose their pledged intentions to voters.

“Not all candidates are forthright about their affiliation with the project,” Rice-Hawkins said. “Our goal is not to vilify, but to educate. We do consider this a very extreme group, though.”

Free State Project President Matt Philips said his organization doesn’t keep a list of participants who are running for office, adding, “and probably even if I did, I wouldn’t share it with you.”

Among the Free State Project candidates identified from the Monitor’s coverage area are five vying for seats as state representatives: Luke Diamond of Concord, Brian Seaworth of Pembroke, Darren Tapp of Chichester and Carol McGuire of Epsom. There’s also Hoell, who received his “honorary” title.

McGuire, a four-term state representative, said she moved to the state in 2005 because of the Free State Project. She said she doesn’t hide that fact because the circumstances under which she arrived don’t strongly influence the policies she chooses to support.

“What I’ve done since I moved to New Hampshire is a lot more relevant to my constituents than why I moved to New Hampshire,” she said.

Seaworth and Diamond didn’t return phone messages. Tapp could not be reached.

Philips said participants of the Free State Project work on their own causes once they arrive in New Hampshire and noted that “less than 40 percent of people who live in New Hampshire were born here.”

“The Free State Project doesn’t tell its participants what to do once they get here,” he said. “A lot of them get involved with politics, but a lot of them don’t.”

About 2,600 existing New Hampshire residents also signed onto the same pledge as the 20,000 outsiders, which said they’d work to “exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of individuals’ rights to life, liberty, and property.”

If those who are running for office aren’t transparent about their motivations – as Rice-Hawkins suggested – Philips said it wouldn’t be out of the norm for politics.

“I think politicians hide their motivations all the time,” he said. “Democrats don’t talk about how they want extra taxes, and yet that’s what they vote for when they get into office.”

For her part, Rice-Hawkins said Free Staters “will adopt whatever party label is most advantageous to them.”

She said she believes Free Staters intend to dismantle government and secede from the U.S., pointing to early writing by the group’s founder that described such plans in 2001.

“I think the infrastructure of the Free State Project movement has grown and gained strength, but I don’t think the core of what they’re trying to do has changed,” she said.

Granite State Progress published its list at

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