By Chris Jensen
Medicaid. Northern Pass. Donald Trump. Concealed carry. Assault weapons. The economy of the North Country. Overreach by the Federal Government. Abortion. Recreational marijuana. Defunding Planned Parenthood. Gay Marriage.
Those are some of the issues facing two North Country natives – Republicans Dolly McPhaul and Leon Rideout – as they compete in the Sept. 13 primary for the chance to oppose incumbent Democratic Senator Jeff Woodburn.
McPhaul is from Sugar Hill, graduated from St. Mary’s-in-the-Mountains – now called The White Mountain School – in Bethlehem and Bradford Junior College. Her family owns a business in Littleton and her volunteer work includes serving on the board of the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families.
Rideout graduated from White Mountains Regional High School and immediately enlisted in the Marines, serving for 26 years, including time in Iraq. He owns an auto repair shop and is serving his second term in the House of Representatives. He is a selectman in Lancaster and a member of the Coos Planning Board.
In separate interviews, here’s what they said.
She has opposed Northern Pass since it was announced and argues the system is stacked against everyday people.
“I have seen how the people do not count and it has just angered me, whether it is the House, the Senate, the Site Evaluation Committee. The people are always on the losing end. The lobbyists, the energy companies, the big corporations. Everybody wins but the people.”
She won’t accept Northern Pass unless it is entirely buried.
The Senate has no role in the approval of the project, but McPhaul says she would introduce legislation to limit the authority of the state’s Site Evaluation Committee. The S.E.C.’s approval is needed for major utility projects to go ahead.
She says an elective project like Northern Pass aimed at profits and not reliability “should not be able to go into a town and undo the plans that the residents have worked for years to accomplish to protect their town,” she says. “It would probably take me quite a while, but I am tenacious, I would fight for that.”
Lancaster has twice voted against Northern Pass and McPhaul says that Rideout, who is chairman of the Select Board, failed the town by missing the deadline for asking the S.E.C. to be an intervenor in the Northern Pass proceedings.
Intevenor status is the key to participation in the S.E.C. consideration of the project.
“It was clearly not on his priority list. He sold out his town,” she says.
Rideout says he’s a strong opponent of Northern Pass and would only accept full burial of the line.
He says the Select Board missed the deadline to seek intervenor status because one of three selectmen could not attend a meeting.
“We wanted it to be all three selectmen,” he says.
However, some other applicants missed the deadline, filed anyway and were granted intervenor status, according to the S.E.C.
Rideout said he did seek intervenor status as a state legislator. However, the S.E.C declined to give any legislator intervenor status.
Rideout says many people think Northern Pass won’t be approved, but he’s worried about helping the North Country offset the damage if it is built. He says that’s why he sent a letter in April to the S.E.C. saying if the project is approved at least $100 million of the Northern Pass’ economic development fund – Forward NH – should go to the North Country.
McPhaul says that letter shows Rideout is cozying up to Northern Pass.
But Rideout says he is trying to make sure the North Country gets something if the project is approved.
“I guess being in the military you always have to have a fallback plan. I prefer this thing to be buried if it is built at all. But if they approve it, the fallback plan is we are going to have most of the damage so we should get most of the fund,” he says.
She favors providing Medicaid, but says recipients must do some type of work or public service to receive it.
“This country is sinking under all the programs that are giving money out and I am not averse to helping anybody that needs help,” she says.
“But when you have some guy working two or three jobs to support his family and then he is contributing money to somebody who is able-bodied and could be out doing something, that just does not seem fair.”
The bill to continue Medicaid passed, but Rideout voted against it, saying he is worried about the long-term funding.
“It is a huge growth of our state government. It ties the N.H. budget to the federal government to an even greater extent than it already is,” he says.
He acknowledges Medicaid helps some people in the North Country. But he says the state should have looked at other ways to do that.
HELPING THE NORTH COUNTRY ECONOMY
McPhaul denies claims by Rideout that she is a one-issue candidate and that issue is Northern Pass.
She says because her family has a small business she understands the economic issues and a priority would be trying to improve the economy of the North Country.
One tactic would be offering “incentives, tax reductions to come and start up in the area.”
The Business Enterprise Tax should be eliminated, she said. “That is ridiculous in my mind. How in the world is a small business going to get ahead?”
She would also like to see programs with colleges and high schools that would help train students for jobs in the North Country.
Rideout says he would search for ways to encourage more businesses to locate above the notches and try to reduce regulations that hamper businesses.
For example, he would like to see the Business Enterprise Tax eliminated.
He says being in the House has given him connections and experience that would be valuable. He says he would work to get legislators throughout the region to cooperate to improve life and the economy above the notches.
He criticizes McPhaul over a quote in the Colebrook Chronicle in which she said “I would love to see the North Country stay as it is.”
He says: “You’ve got to be open to bringing everything in.”
McPhaul and Rideout each want to defund Planned Parenthood and Rideout voted to do so, although that legislation was defeated.
“There are so many people who object to abortion and it is not right that we should have to fund something that we object to,” says McPhaul.
Rideout says: “I have no problem with them providing birth control to women who go there. I would rather see our taxpayer money go to local health organizations.”
Both oppose abortion.
Rideout has voted for a series of bills aimed at curbing abortion. That includes a failed bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. New Hampshire currently has no such limit.
McPhaul says she would also have voted for the 20-week bill, but with an exception if the mother’s life is at stake.
“Personally, I am Pro Life, except in the cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother,” says McPhaul. “But I firmly believe it is not my place to decide what is best for someone else or to judge them.”
Rideout voted to abolish a 25-foot buffer zone at facilities that offer abortions. The bill failed.
McPhaul says a buffer should be allowed.
“I would not want somebody harassing me if I was doing something that is probably hard enough for people to do anyway,” she says.
GUNS AND SECOND AMENDMENT
Both support the right to own guns. That includes carrying concealed handguns without a special permit and owning rifles such as the AR-15 modeled after military weapons.
“The .22 rifle is just as deadly as the AR-15,” Rideout says.
However the .223 bullet from the AR-15 travels far faster and thus has the potential for more damage than a .22. It is also accurate over a greater distance, which is why the military chose the .223 in the M-16 for Vietnam.
McPhaul says she didn’t think homeowners needed a lot of “gun power” until “I recently heard that the government wanted to take over the police. So, all of the sudden you are thinking about the police coming to your door and a Gestapo-type thing and you need some protection.”
She said she couldn’t remember where she heard that, but considers it worth attention because “it is a possibility.”
McPhaul: “That is totally up to the people. I am not out to judge people. If that is what makes them happy, fine.”
Rideout: “My personal take is marriage is for me a religious ceremony and government should stay out of it.”
THE ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Both say the federal government should have far less of a role in people’s lives and should focus on large issues such as national defense.
Both oppose recreational marijuana.
DONALD TRUMP AS PRESIDENT
“I am not enthused by his behavior to put it mildly. However his opponent to me is a liar, she sold this country out for the Clinton Library. I think she is a self-serving person who does not treasure this country the way this country should be treasured and I could never, ever vote for her.”
To date, the fact-checking organization PolitiFact has not confirmed assertions that Clinton “sold out this country for the Clinton Library.” But it did rate a Clinton supporter’s claim that she has “abided by the ethics agreement” between the Clinton Foundation and the Obama administration to be “mostly false.”
“I will have a tough time voting for Trump unless he changes his ways and at this point I haven’t decided what I am going to do,” she said.
Rideout says Trump wasn’t his first choice (he liked Ted Cruz) but he will vote for Trump. “A lot of that has to do with I do not trust Hillary Clinton with our military,” he says.
“I didn’t like the exchange that Trump had with the Gold Star family, but it doesn’t come close to having Hillary Clinton call members of the Benghazi families liars.”
The Benghazi statement is a reference to whether Clinton – in a private meeting – shortly after the attack – told families the attack was prompted by a film mocking Islam. She later denied saying that and when contradicted by some family members said they were “wrong.” Some other family members at the meeting told the fact-checking organization PolitiFact that they did not remember Clinton mentioning a video.
The issue was investigated by PolitiFact, which concluded: “There simply is not enough concrete information in the public domain for anyone to claim as fact that Clinton did or did not lie to the Benghazi families.”
“That is not the only case where Hillary has been found short on telling the truth,” Rideout said. “And for me a lot about voting for a presidential candidate has to be about trust and I think she has violated that trust so many times.”
Asked how a veteran who spent 26 years as a Marine feels about Trump’s five draft deferments during the Vietnam War, Rideout said Bill Clinton also had a draft deferment to avoid Vietnam.
“So, if it didn’t matter for Bill Clinton, should it really matter for Donald Trump? If I had my preference I’d be voting for a veteran for president, but that is not one of the choices.”
HERE ARE SOME OF RIDEOUT’S ACTIONS IN THE HOUSE
Rep. Leon Rideout sponsored 24 bills in 2016 and five of them have been signed into law.
Those that became law are naming a rest area after Executive Councilor Ray Burton; allowing the use of silencers while hunting; giving the state the authority to allow larger off-road vehicles at Jericho Mountain State Park; allowing someone who purchased a muzzle-loader license to also hunt deer with a crossbow and establishing “a state geographic information system committee.”
In other legislative action:
* Rideout says he’s proudest of trying to get a fetal-homicide bill (HB 560) passed. His interest was prompted after an automobile accident in which his daughter’s unborn son died. The bill failed, but he says: “If I am elected to the Senate that bill will be coming back.”
* Rideout sponsored a failed bill (HB 1291) that would have blocked the federal government from buying land – such as that around Lake Umbagog – without the approval of the Executive Council and the governor. His concern is communities losing the tax money. McPhaul shares that concern saying such federal action is “very scary.”
* Rideout supported a failed bill (HB 1660) that would have given homeowners some additional rights in the case of eminent domain being exercised for gas pipelines.
* Rideout sponsored a failed bill (HB 1621) that would have prevented the state from distributing any federal funds to a municipality that declares itself to be a “sanctuary city” and refuses to enforce immigration laws.
* Rideout voted for a bill (HB 1446) that would have prevented police from engaging in the current practice of stopping a driver for using a cellphone or “mobile” device unless the driver first committed some other offense such as speeding. The bill failed. He attributes the vote to his “Libertarian streak.”
* Was a sponsor of a failed bill (HB 1333) that would have required courts to tell jurors they could refuse to enforce a law they feel is unjust.
*Voted against a bill (SB 219) that would have required employers to provide an area for breast feeding. The bill failed.
* Voted against allowing police to use a scanner to check license plates. The bill (HB 1154) passed.
For a complete list of his votes go here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/membervotingrecord.aspx?member=377162