Richard Merkt, a Westmoreland Republican, is planning to run for Cheshire County’s 1st House District, he announced at the start of the week.
One of 16 in the county, the district encompasses Chesterfield, Hinsdale, Walpole and Westmoreland, and is currently represented by four Democrats.
Cathryn Harvey of Chesterfield is the most recently elected state representative in the district, assuming office in 2016, after Michael Abbott of Hinsdale in 2014, Paul Berch of Westmoreland in 2012 and Lucy McVitty Weber of Walpole in 2006.
Each in the quartet won more votes in the 2018 midterms than Republican Kate Day of Spofford.
Merkt, 70, said he has spoken with the Cheshire County Republican Committee about running for a seat in the district, and came away with the understanding that he’s the only Republican in the race so far, but could be joined by more.
If more than four Democrats or Republicans file for the seats, a primary would winnow the results, but either way, he plans to be in the mix to be one of the top four vote-getters in the general election Nov. 3.
While this is Merkt’s first run for elected office in the Granite State, he won several races while living in New Jersey.
He served in the N.J. Assembly from 1998 to 2010, served as a councilman in Mendham Township from 2011 to 2014 — which included a rotation as mayor for 2013 — and was also elected as the administrator for Mendham Borough from 2014 to 2017.
Merkt said he grew up in the Garden State’s Mercer County, later living with his wife, Suzanne, in Morris County, about an hour from New York City.
Before retiring to Westmoreland in 2017, Merkt said he and Suzanne bought half of a farmhouse there in 2009 as he wrapped up his career in automobile sales and electronics manufacturing.
Merkt said his focus in Concord would be on bringing more economic activity to Cheshire County, which he, like many other local political hopefuls, calls the “forgotten corner” of New Hampshire.
“I don’t think it’s a partisan issue as much as it is a practical, common-sense issue,” Merkt said.
He added that his experience seeing the “impacts of overregulation and overtaxation” while in the Garden State’s legislature would be a worthwhile perspective to bring to Concord as Democrats seek to expand the Granite State’s social safety net and find revenue sources other than property taxes to better fund education.
While his dozen years in New Jersey’s lower chamber came before that state’s debt crisis began to worsen in the 2010s, Merkt said seeing that occur from his view at the local level would make him a vigilant state representative.
“I don’t want to see that happen here,” he said. “I want New Hampshire to remain New Hampshire.”