Portsmouth Press Herald: Local candidates sign AFP pledge with support for Right to Work law
By Joey Cresta
PORTSMOUTH — Right to Work has become a key piece of this year’s Americans for Prosperity N.H. tax pledge offered to candidates for state office, from the governor to the House of Representatives.
Corey Lewandowski, state director of AFP-N.H., said the organization rolled out the taxpayer pledge two years ago, the result of what he described as AFP-N.H. Honorary Chairman Tom Thomson’s desire to ensure elected officials keep their word to the people they represent.
Thomson is the son of former N.H. Gov. Mel Thomson, who Lewandowski said issued the first modern anti-tax pledge. He said Tom Thomson is carrying on his father’s tradition by offering the pledge to current candidates for state office.
AFP-N.H. is the local chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the influential conservative political advocacy group founded with the financial support of oil-rich billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch. The AFP website states the organization is committed to educating and mobilizing citizens on issues of economic policy.
Lewandowski said 75 percent of New Hampshire candidates who took the pledge in 2010 went on to win during a big year for Republican candidates. Candidates who took the AFP pledge in 2010 signed a commitment to cut taxes, spending and the size of government, and to uphold and protect both the state and U.S. constitutions.
Lewandowski said AFP-N.H. added “support the Right to Work law” to its pledge because the legislation represents “an economic viability issue.” Having the law would signal that the state is “open for business” and would be a boon to economic development, he said.
Right to Work would significantly weaken unions in the state by preventing union contracts from requiring employees to pay dues. The proposal was the focus of much debate in the Legislature this year before the Senate voted to table the bill in April.
The anti-union legislation has been a focal point for some Republicans in the Legislature, including Rep. Will Smith, R-New Castle, who sponsored the bill. In a recent letter to the editor of the Portsmouth Herald, Smith said that government forcing workers to join unions constitutes a violation of civil rights and “fills the coffers” of public unions to support political candidates of their choosing.
At a recent candidates forum in Rye, Smith also stated support for Right to Work, saying it would “do wonders for employment in the state, particularly in the North Country.”
Smith is one of a number of local candidates who took the AFP-N.H. taxpayer pledge this year. Fellow House District 24 candidate Ray Tweedie, a Republican from Rye, took the pledge, as did District 23 candidate and Deputy House Speaker Pam Tucker, R-Greenland; District 22 incumbent candidate Michelle Peckham, R-North Hampton; District 30 candidate Kevin Kervick, a Portsmouth Republican; and state Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne and incumbent Congressman Frank Guinta, R-N.H., also took the pledge.
Kervick, the only candidate from Portsmouth to take the pledge, said, “To me, it’s the most common-sense of all pledges.” He said cutting spending is the primary plank of his platform as a candidate, and he also took the N.H. Taxpayers Association pledge to not support any new broad-based sales or income tax.
“To me it’s a moral issue,” he said of Right to Work. “I don’t think it’s moral to make somebody join a union or join any organization against their will.”
Rep. Tim Copeland, R-Stratham, running for his second term in the House, said AFP-N.H. represents “the far right wing” of the Republican Party and those who let party platforms drive their votes instead of their constituents.
“I believe I work for the people. I don’t work for a party,” he said in explaining why he did not take the AFP-N.H. pledge. He said he does believe in low taxes and limited government, but does not believe in stripping government down to a “minimal core” so that it barely functions. “I guess that’s what makes me the moderate in the group,” he said.
New Castle’s David Borden, a former state representative and candidate running against Smith and Tweedie, said he does not believe in taking pledges.
“We take the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in the Legislature,” he said, “but I think that’s very different from promising a certain direction in policy when you can’t possibly predict what’s going to happen.”
Some of those who have not taken the pledge still support its ideals. Mark Brighton, a Republican from Portsmouth seeking a House seat, said he supports cutting taxes and the Right to Work law, but did not take the pledge because he believes locals already know his stance on cutting taxes and the size of government.
“Even though I agree with that they’re saying, I don’t feel like I need to take a pledge,” he said. “Good lord, if people don’t know that about me, they’re not going to vote for me anyway.”