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New Hampshire Weekly

BY Laura A. Kiernan
by Laura A. Kiernan on 11/5/00.

Enough already. It's finally time to end Campaign 2000, which we think began somewhere back in 1996, at least for some who craved the presidency. Here at home, could there be a soul left who hasn't heard that Governor Jeanne Shaheen thinks former US senator Gordon Humphrey is an extremist, and that Humphrey thinks Shaheen is a secret income taxer? They have spent millions between them, bombarded us with television ads and radio zingers and been to who knows how many debates, during which they have proved to be masters of staying on message
(Humphrey: You have no plan! Shaheen: Your numbers don't add up! Humphrey: Stop smearing me! Shaheen: You said what you said!).

Last week, a survey from Franklin Pierce College in Rindge confirmed that a muddle of public opinion still surrounds the behemoth issue in the race - education funding.

Thirty percent of 885 voters surveyed between Oct. 22 and Oct. 25 said they favor an income tax, but 25 percent are undecided. From there, opinions were all over the map: 11 percent wanted a sales tax, 8.5 percent wanted to go back to local funding, another 8 percent favored a yet-to-be identified tax combo, 5 percent liked the statewide property tax, 3 percent favored video gambling, and 3 percent said to get more out of the lottery (paying for schools with bets, booze and taxes on butts is a New Hampshire

favorite). Three percent just want to limit spending.

Then there were those, said pollster Robin Marra, with slightly more radical ideas, like putting a tax on out-of-state motorists, upping the restaurant meals tax, making the federal government pay the tab and, finally, a school user tax. Namely, if you don't have kids, you don't have to pay for schools. How's that for civic mindedness?

Brown, Babiarz score a few points

In case you missed the final televised debate among the gubernatorial candidates (it was Halloween night, after all), state Senator Mary Brown of Chichester, a conservative Republican-turned-Independent income tax supporter, and Libertarian John Babiarz of Grafton, made some neat, plain-spoken points. Since they are both way, way behind in the polls, they had the liberty of being completely candid on the campaign trail, that is when they were not shut out by event organizers. And their input diffused some of the sniping between Humphrey and Shaheen over the issues.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the property tax is exhausted," Brown said during last week's forum, explaining her 4 percent income tax plan, dedicated to education, which would replace the statewide property tax. But what would she do if she were elected governor and the Legislature refused to pass her plan? "If I fail," she said, "we are no worse off than we are right now."

Babiarz got a hearty laugh from Humphrey, and a pat on the arm from Shaheen, for his response to a question about whether he supported public financing of political campaigns. The candidate spending this year in New Hampshire, including for state Senate races, is on the moon.

"If I don't believe in welfare for corporations, why should we have welfare for politicians?" Babiarz said. "Somebody who spends more than $1 million to get a $96,000-a-year job, they are either really committed or should be committed."

P.S.: The Franklin Pierce poll gave Shaheen 51 percent and Humphrey 30 percent, with 12 percent undecided. Brown had 5 percent and Babiarz had less than one percent. When those surveyed were asked how they thought Shaheen had done as governor, it was a split decision: 42 percent approved, 42 percent disapproved, with the rest undecided. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent.

Late last week, the American Research Group in Manchester had Shaheen and Humphrey in a dead heat among 600 likely voters polled on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. But RKM Research and Communications Inc. in Portsmouth had Shaheen with a 12-point lead, with 50 percent compared with 38 percent for Humphrey. RKM polled 487 likely voters on Oct. 30 and 31, with a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

The RKM poll also found voters all over the map on the tax issues, although a healthy 32 percent said no new taxes should be used to fund education.

Home rule issue draws attention

Home rule suddenly got hot last week.

Opponents said they weren't in a panic but they admitted they hadn't paid enough attention last session when the House and Senate overwhelmingly voted to put the constitutional amendment on Tuesday's ballot. Now they are scrambling to defeat it. John Crosier, president of the Business and Industry Association, says "this was done in the cacophony of how to pay for schools . . . and we missed it."

State Representative Howard Dickinson, a Center Conway Republican, told reporters he had come to do penance because "the House was snookered."

Nonsense, says the New Hampshire Municipal Association, which represents all of the state's 234 cities and towns and has lobbied very hard for the two-thirds voter approval needed to change the constitution. Maybe too hard, according to the attorney general's office, which told the association to remove home-rule pamphlets it had distributed to town offices. The association's general counsel, Maura Carroll, insists that the pamphlets were factual and unbiased and that the attorney general's and secretary of state's offices knew the fliers were going out, although they hadn't seen them. She says this issue has been around for years - it was rejected six times over 20 years by the constitutional conventions before it finally got on the ballot - and was the subject of hearings during the last legislative session, but nobody testified against it.

"The other side has totally distorted what it's about," said Carroll. Republican Representative David Hess of Hooksett, chairman of the House Municipal and County Governments Committee, says that home rule is the ultimate in local control and that cities and towns will have authority only over issues not already covered by state law.

But opponents, including Mike Keeler from the New Hampshire Association of Realtors, told reporters that home rule isn't the "motherhood and apple pie" issue it appears to be and would create 234 "kingdoms" with different rules. Rich Killion from New Hampshire Citizens for a Sound Economy predicted it would "make your hair hurt" trying to figure out whether state or local government has the power - which means court fights.

Will the cities and towns run amok? Or, as House Democratic leader Peter Burling put it, is it just a matter of giving "power to the people?" You decide.

A familiar feeling,

like lost in woods

Walter and Mary Ellen Hoerman aren't strangers to politics: he is deputy mayor of Rochester (and a local pediatrician), and they are both active Democrats who even had a house party for Vice President Al Gore. So, when they saw an ad for a scary movie contest on "Good Morning America," Walter instantly had an idea for a three-minute skit with some self-described really bad acting by the Hoermans and their kids, Alex, Gwen and Abby. They called it "Nightmare in New Hampshire" and it was about, yes, the presidential primary. It was a weird blend of scenes that look like the "Blair Witch Project" and "The Sixth Sense," with Walter at one pointing humming the theme music from "Jaws."

Alas, their videotaped creation didn't make the finals, perhaps because New Hampshire politics aren't scary enough for the morning talking head shows. But the show's execs were so amused that they showed the video anyway.

"We couldn't stand the excitement," said Mary Ellen Hoerman. And by the way, how do they feel about the political season right now? "Let's vote and get it over with," said Walter Hoerman.

Short takes

If you want to know how candidates voted on important issues, check out the "Voter Guide 2000" put out by New Hampshire Citizens Alliance for Action. You can find it at or call 225-2097 . . . We think this is a perk, but whatever, Concord GOP activist Rob Rabuck will be traveling to Moscow this month to discuss the American primary election system with Russian lawmakers. The trip is sponsored by (despite its name) the nonpartisan, nonprofit International Republican Institute, which was founded during the Reagan administration. Its chairman is US Senator John McCain of Arizona, whom Rabuck supported in his presidential bid . . . And, finally, if you just haven't had enough politics after Tuesday, you can head to the Capitol Center in Concord on Thursday, Friday or Saturday for the premier of "The People's House," a musical takeoff of New Hampshire politics. The female governor in this show has to sell the Old Man of the Mountain to a developer to solve the state's fiscal crisis. Now there's an idea.