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Susan Bruce: Ousting Extremists

Well, we had us an election.
Once again, New Hampshire has surprised me. In 2010, when the Tea Party/John Birch/Free Stater contingent took over our state, it was a surprise. A lot of respected legislators were ousted, and replaced with people in possession of varying degrees of competence and sanity. The new majority promised a laser-like focus on job creation, yet created policy that cost our state jobs, and increased unemployment. They turned the laser on social issues, and worked tirelessly to regulate ovaries, homosexuals and poor people. They cut revenue streams, ensuring that N.H. would continue to be unable to afford the kind of investments in infrastructure and education needed to move our state into the future.
Thanks to the last legislature, N.H. became fodder for comedians on late night TV. We went from being a small state that no one paid much attention to until presidential primary season, to being a national and even international mockery. The volume knob on N.H. crazytunes was turned up a little bit higher each week that the legislature was in session. That probably wasn't what most of you were hoping for when you cast your ballots in 2010.
You were probably hoping for property tax relief. You didn't get any. Instead you got Free Stater Jennifer Coffey filing a bill to put up warning signs at the Massachusetts border. The voters in her district firmly ousted her. You got birthers — state legislators using their status to attempt to prove that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen. Local birther Laurie Pettengill was gerrymandered right out of her seat by her own party. Harry Accornero was not given a second term by the voters of Laconia. You also got a bill to put quotes from the Magna Carta in new legislation, and a bill calling for vegetarian diets in our prisons and jails. Sponsor Robert Kingsbury was ousted by his constituents in Laconia.
Rep. Gregory Sorg last year chaired a committee aimed at ensuring N.H. received no federal aid for anything. In his report, he decried weatherization and fuel assistance programs, saying that N.H. residents should arrange their affairs so that they required no such assistance. As I wrote at the time:
"In short, we must all manage our affairs so that we do not get old, do not develop a serious health problem, do not lose our jobs, and do not suffer from sudden poverty caused by the destruction of the U.S. economy. Based on these findings, Rep. Sorg should be expecting three ghosts to visit him on Christmas Eve."
Apparently the voters in his district concurred. Rep. Sorg was voted out.
On the local level, Frank McCarthy was ousted. In a one-on-one conversation, Frank can be quite personable. His public persona, however, is probably what cost him the election. For two years he's written bellicose diatribes to the newspaper, filled with inaccuracies and right-wing propaganda. At the House candidate's forum I attended, he didn't need the microphone. His bellowing was audible in the next county. On the next planet.
Extremist Norman Tregenza was soundly defeated in his attempt to win the newly gerrymandered floterial district. Voters were apparently not won over by his laser-like focus on the issues of Ron Paul and the John Birch Society — or by the ugly campaign he ran.
Ovide Lamontagne lost his second attempt at the corner office. In his concession speech, he complained that his positions on issues had been distorted. That translates as: They told the truth about me. The media was intent on presenting him as some sort of moderate, but his stance on social issues revealed him to be anything but. Lamontagne has now lost three elections because he's just too extreme for N.H. That's the take away from this election. N.H. is many strange and wonderful things, but we aren't a state that is willing to be governed by far-right ideologues.
On some level, I suspect that many local Republicans are aware that ceding their party to the extremists was a bad idea. They've paid a high price for allowing racists, homophobes and misogynists to speak for them.
By far and away, the biggest mistake made by the GOP on every level (state and national) was the war on women. They might have gotten away with restricting abortion, but trying to restrict contraception proved to be a bridge to nowhere. GOP spokesman Rush Limbaugh called college student Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute for testifying before Congress about a mandate that insurance companies cover birth control. That was spun quite successfully and dishonestly as "taxpayer funded birth control."
By far and away the most damaging move made by the GOP was allowing itself to become the party of redefining rape. Missouri Congressman Todd Akin told us that in the case of "legitimate rape" a woman can't get pregnant, because "the female body has ways of shutting that down." Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock told us that a pregnancy resulting from rape is something God intended to happen. All over the country Republican men were telling women that a rape baby was going to be a little blessing for them — and one that they would be forced to bear. Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was part of an effort to redefine rape, attempting to ensure that only victims of "forcible rape" would be eligible for federally-funded abortions.
Women across the country proved that they have ways to shut THAT nonsense down. They voted Akin and Mourdock out. New Hampshire has made history with an all-woman congressional delegation: Both of our U.S. Senators and both of our newly elected Representatives are women. We elected a female governor. Record numbers of women will be serving in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House in 2013.
There are women now serving in every single state legislative chamber. It's shameful that it's taken all this time to get there, but we are there now. The GOP would do well to take notice.

Susan Bruce lives in Mount Washington Valley.
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