Democratic candidates appear at house party in Francestown

By SCOTT MERRILL

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 10-17-2022 12:58 PM

Three Democratic candidates made an evening stop at the home of Judy and Bob Bitterli in Francestown Oct. 15 to get their messages out to voters and raise money. 

The candidates who spoke and answered questions were state Senator and gubernatorial candidate Dr. Tom Sherman, Charlene Lovett, the former mayor of Claremont who is running for the New Hampshire District 8 Senate seat; and Francestown’s Susan Kane, who is running for state representative in Hillsborough County District 27, which includes Francestown. 

Judy Bitterli said they welcomed the idea of being hosts after being approached by Sue Jonas, head of the Francestown Democratic Committee.

“Sue was the driving force working with the candidates and their managers to secure their commitment to attend and managed and drove the list of potential attendees and donors,” she said. “Sue has become a friend, and we hoped that the history of the house would serve as an inspiration for those attending.”

The Bitterlis’ home on Main Street in Francestown is the birthplace of Levi Woodbury, former speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, former governor of New Hampshire, former U.S. senator, former Navy and Treasury secretary and U.S. Supreme Court justice. 

Former Francestown Select Board member Scott Carbee attended the event along with his wife BJ. He said he changed his voting status recently from Republican to undeclared in part because of the decision last summer to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

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“My parents were moderate Republicans,” he said, explaining that he is disappointed with the present state government and with the support for former President Donald Trump. “We need to have compromise in government and we’re starting to see less of that in New Hampshire. Unfortunately it’s filtering down to the town level as well.” 

Kane, who spoke at the event, focused on connecting with voters from rural regions and said her canvassing has helped her to learn how to bring people together.

“It starts by listening,” she said, adding that Democrats in the past have been listening to people in cities and the coasts without taking rural voices into enough consideration. “Rural voters matter and we’ve lost them to far right because we weren’t listening. We need to roll it back to a place where we can see we have something in common.”

Kane said she was glad to see so many people at the event from surrounding towns such as Peterborough because they were able to hear Sherman speak. 

“What [Sherman] had to say was the most important part of the night,” Kane said, referring to what she believes is Gov. Chris Sununu’s insincerity when taking credit for issues, such as education funding, that he has voted against, and that people remain surprised when they hear these things. “It bothers me that they’re surprised. People aren’t aware enough of what’s happening. I’m so incensed that [Sununu] is allowing Free State education polices to come through [Education Commissioner Frank] Edelblut and the Department of Education. They’re underfunding education and calling it adequate.”

During his address to the crowd, Sherman covered a number of issues, including workforce housing and childcare. 

“Virtually every child care organization I’ve been to, and I’ve stopped at many, have up to 40-person waiting lists,” he said. “And work is not an option for them. Which brings us to businesses. They can’t find workers.  They’re cutting back on their hours. And on top of that,  once they find that workforce, there’s no housing. Do  you think Chris Sununu has been listening to these questions? Absolutely not.”

In an interview, Sherman spoke about environmental issues confronting the state and work that needs to be done.

“I opposed the Dalton landfill, not because I’m opposed to [it] per se, but because the process of siting landfills is broken. It doesn’t take into account the science,” he said, adding that he has worked on the Coakley landfill on the Seacoast, which is a Superfund site. “I really understand what happens when you lose control of the environmental impact and don’t take into account the science. And that’s why I supported HB 1454. ”

HB 1454 would have established a formula for determining the distance for which a new landfill could be legally located from a perennial river, lake or coastal water. Sununu vetoed the bill in April. 

Lovett said she was led to run for state Senate after the Executive Council voted in July to defund family planning contracts. Lovett, who has been on the board of the Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont and a member of the advisory committee for the Sullivan County Public Health Network, said she understands how critical having a Planned Parenthood office in Claremont is. Since the decision by the Executive Council, the Claremont family planning office has closed. 

“When they continued to vote down party lines not to fund the family planning contracts, I got very upset and my husband said, ‘If you’re that upset you should do something about it,’” she said, adding that running for office was not her intention after retiring. “The nearest family planning sites, which are in Exeter or up in White River Junction, don’t work. A good part of their clientele are people on the lower economic spectrum.”  

Judy and Bob Bitterli moved to Francestown in April 2021 from the Dallas area. She said Francestown has been an incredible place to live and that she and her husband were looking for a smaller community than the Dallas metro area, which has a population of more than 6 million people and a Congressional district with a population of 718,000 people.

“The intimacy of the electoral process in New Hampshire with candidates routinely speaking to small groups of people and  taking questions is not the Texas experience,” she said. “Small gatherings in Texas were measured in the thousands of attendees. The community [in Francestown] is warm, welcoming and filled with a love of our country and our electoral process.” 

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