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Jobs, economy, education are key issues, says Jim Lawrence

  • Jim Lawrence of Hudson, who's seeking the Republican nomination for New Hampshire's 2nd District Congressional seat, talks to voters at Harlow's in Peterborough on Monday.

    Jim Lawrence of Hudson, who's seeking the Republican nomination for New Hampshire's 2nd District Congressional seat, talks to voters at Harlow's in Peterborough on Monday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Jim Lawrence of Hudson, who's seeking the Republican nomination for New Hampshire's 2nd District Congressional seat, talks to voters at Harlow's in Peterborough on Monday.

    Jim Lawrence of Hudson, who's seeking the Republican nomination for New Hampshire's 2nd District Congressional seat, talks to voters at Harlow's in Peterborough on Monday. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Jim Lawrence of Hudson, who's seeking the Republican nomination for New Hampshire's 2nd District Congressional seat, talks to voters at Harlow's in Peterborough on Monday.
  • Jim Lawrence of Hudson, who's seeking the Republican nomination for New Hampshire's 2nd District Congressional seat, talks to voters at Harlow's in Peterborough on Monday.

PETERBOROUGH — Jim Lawrence, a Hudson businessman and former state representative, says he’s seeking the Republican nomination for the District 2 Congressional seat because the other candidates aren’t focusing on the right issues.

In a discussion with members of the Ledger-Transcript editorial board on Monday, Lawrence said Marilinda Garcia and Gary Lambert, his rivals in the primary contest that will select a candidate to oppose incumbent Democrat Annie Kuster, have spent most of their time arguing over campaign contributions.

“My candidacy is talking about the issues exclusively,” Lawrence said. “When I’m out talking to people, they are interested in jobs, the economy, how to pay for their children’s education. They are also concerned about foreign policy. These are the issues we should be talking about.”

Lawrence, 43, is a native of the Bronx, N.Y., and a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He said he spent summers in New Hampshire at Camp Glen Brook in Marlborough and he moved to Hudson in 1997 after spending seven years on active duty in the Air Force.

“I got to see the entire U.S. and I came back here as soon as I separated from the Air Force.” Lawrence said.

He now runs a consulting business, Lawrence Battalle Inc., which he said focuses on projects for the Department of Defense.

Lawrence is married to Kim Lawrence, who has been a teacher for 20 years and works as a special education director in the Woburn, Mass., public school system. The couple has eight children, ranging in age from 8 to 20.

Lawrence was first elected to the N.H. House of Representatives in 2002 and he represented Hudson until 2008. He said he stepped down after three terms because “I don’t believe it’s a career. I chose to go off and do something else.” He said he had started his own consulting business during his time in the state house, after a former employer told him his duties as a legislator might conflict with his former job.

Lawrence, who was the last of the three candidates to file to run in the primary, has drawn notice as the first African-American to run for Congress in New Hampshire.

“There was a bit of fanfare about that when I filed, but not a whole lot now,” Lawrence said.

He said he’d been elected three times in Hudson, where the demographics are similar to the district as a whole.

“I don’t think race was a factor in those elections. I’d have to assume it’s not going to be a factor now,” he said. “In the end, people will look at the three candidates, and judge us on our life experiences and our positions on the issues.”

Lawrence said his chief focus, if elected, would be on scaling back on federal regulations, which he feels have negatively impacted small businesses like his company.

“Right now, the government is doing a fine job of getting in the way,” he said. “Every time I turn around, there’s another report or tax or fee. It puts a real financial burden on small businesses.”

He said the solution would be to make sure there’s a good reason for every federal regulation.

“If it’s not necessary, don’t do it,” he said.

He said the federal government has become too intrusive.

“I’m strongly opposed to Washington D.C. dictating policy to New Hampshire,” he said, citing the Affordable Care Act and the Common Core educational standards as examples.

He said the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, has hurt many people in the state.

“There’s a lot of pain out there. People are suffering,” Lawrence said. “I thought Obamacare was supposed to make it better. I want to restore what was good about health care.”

He said the biggest problem is that right now only one insurance carrier is offering policies under the Affordable Care Act and allowing plans to cross state lines might be a good step to expand options available to New Hampshire residents.

Lawrence said he opposed the Common Core standards, which have been adopted in New Hampshire despite attempts by opponents in the N.H. House to limit implementation.

“I’m in favor of local control when it comes to education,” he said, adding that “not a heck of a lot of money comes down from the federal government” to fund programs that are mandated.

He said educational funding is a big challenge facing local communities, and while he was never a supporter of a state income tax while he was in the legislature, it is becoming more and more difficult for communities to pay for their schools.

“I just hope Washington would stop sending down requirements,” he said. “New Hampshire is a special place. I want to keep it that way.”

Lawrence said he is opposed to the Northern Pass project, which calls for power lines running from Canada through the White Mountains, because of its potential impact on the landscape.

“I would not substitute temporary infrastructure jobs for permanent tourism jobs,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of burying power lines, Lawrence said he hadn’t seen a feasible proposal to put the lines underground.

He said he was also opposed to most wind power proposals that he has seen.

“Local authorities and communities should have a bigger say,” he said. “Having a readily available cheap source of energy is important, but energy policy has to be balanced.”

On foreign policy, Lawrence said he was happy to see that President Obama recently authorized air strikes against Islamist militants in Iraq. But overall he doesn’t believe the president’s foreign policy initiatives have been effective.

“It’s important that we look stronger, not weaker,” Lawrence said. “Our allies feel they can’t depend on us.” He said the president should have done more to prevent the spread of violence in Syria and Iraq but he would not recommended using American ground forces in Syria, Iraq or Ukraine.

“The last thing I want to do is commit U.S. troops,” Lawrence said. “The costs are too high.”

He said the United States needs to send a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding Ukraine.

“Sanctions are a good start, but Putin’s not impressed,” Lawrence said. “How about if we provide arms to the Ukranians. That’s a decisive action.”

He said Israel’s military actions in Gaza against Hamas, which he called a terrorist organization, were appropriate measures.

“I’m a little disappointed that we’re not supporting Israel in its effort,” Lawrence said.

Asked what committees he’d want to serve on if elected, Lawrence said his experience would qualify him for the Armed Services or Energy and Commerce committees. He said as a junior member, he’d expect and be willing to serve wherever he was assigned.

When asked about potential conflicts of interest with his consulting business, Lawrence said that wouldn’t be an issue.

“If elected, I’d be willing to sell my business,” he said. [Congress] is the next step where I want to serve the people.”

Lawrence will be participating, along with Garcia and Lambert, in a debate on Aug. 19 at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge. The event is part of the Monadnock Debates series, sponsored by the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, New Hampshire Public Radio, and FPU’s Fitzwater Center for Communications. The free public event will be held at 6 p.m. in Spagnulo Hall on the FPU campus.

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