By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
The general election is but a month away and the campaigns are at their peaks.
Voters need to be engaged, opponents need to be attacked and good deeds and accomplishments need to be publicized for the world to know.
But there is a darker side to this period as well as campaigns and their brain trusts will do anything to bring their candidate over the finish line first.
Some of it is misdirection to take the focus off something not good for the candidate, some of it is deceitful and some just plain lies.
Two issues many campaigns are using as weapons this fall are schools or more specifically parental rights and the other is high energy prices.
High Energy Prices
Gov. Chris Sununu and his Democratic challenger Tom Sherman have traded charges on this issue as energy costs have soared in the last year.
The cost of electricity is about double what it was a year ago, but the warnings have been around for years due to the constrained flow into New England where natural gas is the predominant source of fuel for generating electricity and public outcry over any new pipeline has dashed hopes for additional flow.
With the war in Ukraine and Russia cutting off natural gas flow to Europe, the price has increased even more.
The price of gasoline has come down more than a dollar since the beginning of summer, but heating oil is expected to be much more expensive than last winter.
While much of the increase has to do with worldwide demand, fossil fuel companies have produced record profits from the high prices.
With gasoline prices at their highest, one of those companies, the Koch conglomerate and its political machine, went around the country, including in New Hampshire, selling $2 gas to score political points against the Biden administration.
This summer when a study showed New Hampshire had the highest electric rates in the region, Sununu blamed surrounding states for transitioning to more expensive renewable energy as the cause, when those state’s more diversified generating capacity actually dampened the increase.
Sununu has not been the biggest cheerleader for alternative energy, and has vetoed a number of bills that would have pushed the state in that direction, such as expanding net metering for larger producers.
Whether those alternative sources would have been in place in time to mitigate the higher prices this year is debatable, but you could argue the impact would be realized in the future.
Many Republicans have come to Sununu’s defense and blame democrats for passing bills that increase the price.
One recent post on Twitter shows pictures of protests at Seabrook, against Northern Pass and against a natural gas pipeline with a storage facility in Epping that was mothballed.
The demonstrations against the Seabrook nuclear plant did not drive up the cost of electricity, it was Public Service’s inability to fund construction without having to pay the high interest on junk bonds that increased the cost. The company had to turn to junk bonds after the legislature put a halt to the company’s preferred method of ratepayers funding it through Construction-Work-in-Progress (CWIP) charges.
And then the utility’s bankruptcy added billions to electric bills that are still being paid off.
No electric customer in the state was going to benefit from the hydro power generated by Hydro-Quebec that would flow over the transmission lines of Northern Pass. It was forbidden under the state’s electric industry restructuring law.
All that now cheap hydro power was always going to Massachusetts, not New Hampshire.
The gas pipeline and storage facility or Granite Bridge was withdrawn by Liberty Utilities when the company found a cheaper way to service its customers through the existing infrastructure, as well as foreseeing a questionable future for natural gas.
There are many reasons for the high energy prices here and elsewhere around the world, but the state’s energy policy does not put the state on solid footing to complain with its continued reliance on fossil fuels and that is the responsibility of the current administration.
Sununu does not bear all the blame for the state’s energy problems as Sherman would have you believe, but he is not blameless.
Over the last few years, parental rights have become a political issue more than a debatable question.
It is an issue that some political guru decides will bring out the base and it takes off from there much like critical race theory, which no one really knew about until the former President took up the mantle.
The political masterminds on the libertarian side saw an opening with mask mandates in schools, vaccines and other issues that surfaced with the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the disturbing aspect of the push for parental rights is a willingness to use children as pawns in a dark Machiavellian political game.
While school age children are dying from bullets fired from weapons designed for war, “parental rights” and “critical race theory” are used to drive voters to the polls.
The underlying issue is not the rights of parents, but turning them out to vote for the “right side.”
A good example this week was 1st District Republican candidate Karoline Leavitt standing in front of the Manchester school district’s office and repeating the same contentions Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin used last year to win that office.
The national Republican cartel seeing a good thing in his upset election, has pushed its candidates to use the same issue in their races to help energize the base.
Parental rights or to be more honest, the idea that parents know more about education than trained educators, is the latest in a long line of wedge issues involving children from abortion to gun rights.
Leavitt’s press conference concerned a Manchester school policy to respect a student’s privacy if she or he wants to be addressed by a pronoun different than the one she or he had at birth.
That somehow leads to schools not informing parents if their child is gay or transgender, and no one offered evidence the Manchester schools hide information from a student’s parent.
Leavitt said she had received hundreds of calls, as is often said, but should never be confused with evidence.
And then Leavitt accused her opponent incumbent Democrat Chris Pappas of being party to teachers’ unions that oppose academic excellence and parental rights.
Pappas had nothing to do with the Manchester policy but that was not the issue. The real purpose is to convince parents that teachers and educators in general do not share the same values they do.
“I stand for school choice, academic excellence and putting parents over politicians,” Leavitt said. “Voters should elect Republicans up and down the ballot who will stand on those issues with them.”
In other words, parental rights is just one more arrow in the far-right’s quiver attacking public education in order to decentralize education and make it a pay-for-service enterprise as opposed to a fundamental right provided by government.
The same game is played with the state education freedom accounts program sold as opportunities for parents to find the best possible educational environment for their children.
Instead it is a governmental subsidy for three-quarters of the parents in the program who already were paying tuition to private and religious schools or to home school their children.
The program does not have a real wealth test for parents to participate as it only looks at earnings not assets.
This is not about the children’s educational opportunities, again it is about destroying public education and lowering the tax burden.
For that, New Hampshire taxpayers are on the hook for a new $22 million spending program that was overwhelmingly opposed in public hearings.
A look at the LSRs — which are requests to draft bills — for the upcoming session of the New Hampshire legislature, indicates even when the campaigns end, the issues will not go away and will be debated for the next two years at least.
As with other issues like abortion rights, voters need to know who they are voting for and what they stand for or the tyranny of the minority will continue unabated.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.
Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for InDepthNH.org. Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.