BERLIN — Hoping to bring some common sense and integrity to Congress, Berlin School Librarian Eli Clemmer is running for the Republican nomination for the Second Congressional District seat.
The political newcomer will be competing in the primary against two former state representatives, Lynne Blankenbeker and Steve Negron.
The winner gets to take on three-term incumbent, Democrat Ann Kuster.
Clemmer said he feels politics has gotten too vicious and partisan and said Congress should work to bring the country together.
He has pledged to run a campaign free of mudslinging and personal attacks on his opponents. He said he hopes to be an example of the change he hopes to see in politics.
Clemmer said he has adopted the olive branch as a symbol for his campaign because it represents peace and conciliation.
One of his goals in running is to encourage more everyday people to get into politics and run for office. Clemmer said government needs people from all walks of life to participate.
While he lacks the financial resources of other candidates, Clemmer is using social media to get his name out to the voting public. He has a campaign website and is on both Twitter and Facebook. He is also doing a feature called “Share Your Mind” where he sits down one-on-one with voters to talk about issues and whatever they want to share with him. The sessions are taped and posted on YouTube for the public to view.
To make it easier to get fresh voices in Congress, he favors term limits and noted that polls show most Americans favor term limits as well. In his campaign literature, he writes that the current system “has helped perpetuate an oligarchy of political elites.”
To truly be a government of the people, Clemmer said it is vital to rotate those creating the laws.
He also believes Congress should not vote for its own pay and would seek to amend the Constitution to base congressional salaries off the median household income in the United States. Congress would only get a salary increase if the average American is earning more.
Another major part of his platform is reducing government red tape and over-regulation on businesses. He said government inefficiency restricts economic growth, costing potential jobs and tax dollars.
Clemmer said the economy is doing great and he hopes it will continue to grow. He said the Trump tax cut has certainly helped the economy. While the wealth disparity in the United States may be extreme right now, Clemmer said Americans like the idea that it is still possible for someone with a good product to get to the top 1 percent.
Believing that the future is with the country’s youth, Clemmer is critical of government mandates on education. He said federal bureaucratic standards place unrealistic requirements and regulations on teaching children. Public education should be in the hands of teachers who have a personal understanding of student needs and how to support them. States, he said, should have the flexibility and independence to oversee education.
Clemmer noted he and his wife, Amanda, both work in the Berlin school system and know first hand the challenges of working in a fiscally poor city. He said red tape and unfunded government mandates for education add to those challenges.
The Clemmers also know the high cost of a college education. He said the government and colleges have set a trap for many students by loaning thousands of dollars to students in fields with low pay, setting them up to be bound for years by their college debt.
Clemmer said more emphasis should be placed on careers in highly skilled jobs like electrician, welders, plumbers and farmers.
Asked if he supports the impeachment of President Trump, Clemmer said he would have to look at the facts presented to the House committee.
He acknowledges Trump has not set the best presidential image.
“He’s a wild card,” Clemmer said.
But he said Democrats have been working since Trump was elected to get him our of office.
Clemmer considered the North Country home and spent his early years in Lancaster. But much of his youth was spent in Africa where his father spent decades working as a doctor in Central Africa and Haiti.
His father, William Clemmer, is currently working to battle the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He noted that he first met Amanda in Lancaster at a gathering for families going to Africa. The two met two years later in what was then Zaire. They reconnected later during their college years.
Clemmer attended the University of Maine at Orono when he received a bachelor’s degree in English and a master degree in teaching.
He later received an online master degree in library and information science from the University of South Carolina.
Five years ago, the couple purchased a fixer-upper house in Berlin and moved back to the North Country.