8 candidates vying for four Hampton state rep. seats

Robert Renny Cushing

Party: Democrat

Address: 395 Winnacunnet Road

Age: 66

Occupation: Former non-profit executive, advocate for crime victims

Civic/Political Experience: 6 terms, New Hampshire House of Representatives; Moderator, Winnacunnet School District 1993-present; Delegate, 1984 New Hampshire Constitutional Convention; Former coach, Hampton Youth Association; Justice of the Peace

1. Why are you running for state representative?

Since 1920, Hampton has been my family’s home, the place where I grew up, raised my children, and buried my father and grandparents. I care about our town and the people who live in it. We all want to live in a community and a state that works for all of us, not just the special interests. I’m a good listener, open to new ideas and working with others, and have the skills and principles to be both a fighter and a bridge builder. I am running to be a voice for those who are voiceless, and an effective representative for Hampton in the Statehouse.

2. If elected, what will be your top priorities?

My priorities will include: Fighting to lower property taxes and for Hampton’s fair share of revenues; Protecting elderly, disabled and vulnerable citizens; Supporting public education & healthcare; Strengthening economy and infrastructure; Safeguarding our water and natural resources; Defending victims of crime and violence; and serving Hampton’s people.

3. Do you support giving a sum of public tax dollars to parents to use for homeschooling their children or sending them to private or religious schools?

Hampton was the first town in the state to establish a public school supported by taxation, and I take that as source of pride and inspiration. The proposal to establish a voucher program would drain $100 million from public schools over the next decade, at a time when the state has walked away from support for local school building aid, reneged on its obligation to share in teacher retirement costs, and mandated unfunded special education costs. I support improving our public schools and oppose proposals that undermine existing Hampton schools and give away money with the result that Hampton would have to raise its property tax.

4. Do you support using funds raised through Keno to fund full-day public kindergarten?

I support the state contributing to public education, Pre-K to post secondary, including full-day kindergarten for all. I don’t like that we rely on the lottery and Keno to fund education, but I am not a conscientious objector when it comes to gambling and voted for the Kenogarten bill. New Hampshire needs to re-order its priorities-- this year the state will spend $120 million a year on state prisons and only $80 million on the University System. Spending more money on jailhouses than we do schoolhouses is not sustainable.

5. What can the state do to attract and retain young professionals and families so vital to our workforce?

New Hampshire must adopt family friendly policies that embrace and invest in our future. Developing and implementing programs that protect our environment and our drinking water, modernize our infrastructure, including transportation, utilities and communication systems, and encourage “smart (and affordable) housing” options will signal that we are committed to moving forward in the 21st century. Key to attracting and retaining those young families is prioritizing education and workforce development, and recognizing the value-added to a community by the vibrant presence of those who work in the creative economy.

6. Do you support legalizing marijuana for recreational use?

Spending $35,000 a year to imprison someone for using marijuana never made sense to me, and I was glad last year when Governor Sununu signed a bill I authored to decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana. We are surrounded on all sides by states and Canada where use of marijuana by adults is legal. We need to acknowledge that prohibition of marijuana has failed and treat marijuana/cannabis in a way that is similar to the way we do with alcohol, by legalizing, regulating and taxing it for adult recreational use.

7. Are New Hampshire gun laws sufficient? If not, what changes would you support and why?

My father and my brother-in-law were murdered by firearms; for me and my family gun violence is not an abstract concept but part of the reality of our lives. I am inspired by the actions of young people from Winnacunnet High and across the state and nation who challenge us as adults to work to prevent gun violence. I support common-sense measures to reduce gun homicides, including background checks on purchasers of guns that close the gun-show loophole, limiting the sale of machine guns and military assault weapons, banning bump stocks and high capacity magazines, and enabling judges to issue extreme risk prevention orders to prohibit felons, people engaged in domestic violence, and those who are a danger to themselves or others from wielding firearms.

8. Do you support raising the state minimum wage from the current federal default level of $7.25 an hour? If yes, what should it be?

I was dismayed New Hampshire eliminated the state minimum wage in 2011. Despite our high cost of living, workers in our state have the same floor wage as workers in Mississippi. The lowest wage workers are mostly adult women nearly half work full time. I support reinstating a New Hampshire minimum wage and would follow the example of Amazon which recently announced a minimum wage of $15 an hour.

9. Do you think the state should implement a paid family-medical leave insurance program?

Over 2/3 of New Hampshire children under age six have all available parents in the workforce and yet 2/3 of the workforce lack paid leave to care for a child or aging parent. I support creating a family and medical leave insurance program funded by employee payroll deductions (similar to how we fund unemployment insurance) to ensure that all working people in New Hampshire have access to partial temporary wage replacement when they have to take time off from work to care for themselves or a sick family member.

10. How can the state better address the opioid crisis?

We need to acknowledge that the crisis with use and addiction to opioids is related to another public health crisis, that of our mental healthcare system. For both, we need more beds, we need more treatment providers, we need better and immediate access to treatment, and we need treatment at the community level. We need better programs for intervention, prevention, and treatment, and we need to develop and support systems that foster long term sobriety and health. To do those things will require funds, but we need to see money spent on recovery not as an expense but as an investment.

Andrew Gorrill