In the lone race for Congress in this region, three-term U.S. Rep. Ann Kuster, D-N.H., seeks to defend her seat in the 2nd Congressional District against Nashua Republican Steve Negron and Libertarian Justin O’Donnell of Nashua.
An effective lawmaker who has worked diligently on issues affecting the Monadnock Region and the state, Kuster has earned the right to return to Washington.
A frequent knock on Kuster is that she doesn’t spend much time in the region, except to campaign or stage photo-ops. We, too, would like to see more of her here, but recognize this is a more common dynamic these days for high-level office-holders. More to the point, it’s clear even when she’s in Washington, Kuster has her district on her mind.
A member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, she worked for the Veterans Choice Program, which allows vets to access care outside the VA system. And aware the opioid crisis has hit New Hampshire especially hard, Kuster sponsored legislation aimed at better tracking of opioid prescriptions in the VA system.
Also related to the opioid crisis, Kuster formed the Bipartisan Heroin and Opioid Task Force to look at the issue. And she joined the Granite State’s other congressional representatives in successfully stumping for a fairer share of funding through the recently signed federal comprehensive opioid legislation.
She’s also pushed to improve broadband access in rural areas, including working to get the FCC to more accurately assess what constitutes “adequate” service, and inserting language in the federal farm bill to include Cheshire County (among others) within the domain of the Northern Border Regional Commission, which funds economic infrastructure projects in areas of need.
O’Donnell is a Libertarian Party activist. Among his key positions is this, from his website: “If I am elected, I will sponsor and work diligently to pass legislation to nullify and void all regulations, laws, and restrictions generated by federal government bureaucracies.” We don’t see how the 2nd District would be served by a representative with such an absolutist agenda in today’s Congress.
Negron is a retired Air Force officer who now owns a defense-related consulting firm. He’s finishing his first term in the House, where he sponsored no legislation through two sessions. His explanation is that his style is to study how things work while learning from experienced lawmakers, rather than to jump into action. Yet somehow, he says, he would be a more immediately proactive member of Congress.
In an August interview, Negron repeatedly referred to what an asset he’d be to the president, though when pressed, he said his first duty would be to his constituents. By September, he seemed to have sharpened his delivery and focused his message, but it remains mostly rote party talking points. Securing elections? Build a wall. National security? Build a wall. Fighting opioids? You guessed it. He says the national debt is a huge concern, but is a big fan of the tax cuts passed a year ago to benefit mostly the wealthy and corporate interests. Those cuts would add as much as $1 trillion to the deficit, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — unless offset by immense cuts to programs such as Social Security, Medicare and educational grants.
Though he put forth no legislation, Negron did, of course, vote as a lawmaker and member of the Election Law Committee — 92 percent of his votes reflected the views of his fellow Republican lawmakers, according to CitizensCount.org.
Of course, voting with your party isn’t a disqualifier — it should be expected more often than not. Kuster herself has, according to ProPublica, voted with the majority of Democrats more than 91 percent of the time. A big difference is in taking action to serve your constituents, and Kuster has done that.
We endorse Ann Kuster for a return to Congress in the 2nd District.
This editorial has been updated to remove inaccurate information regarding the Libertarian Party's quest to remain on the state's ballots in the future. The party can maintain its official party status on New Hampshire ballots this year only if its candidate for governor receives 4 percent or more of the vote in next week's election. Also changed was a reference to that party's candidate in the U.S. House race in District 2, Justin O'Donnell of Nashua, having worked on party ballot access in several states; according to a Libertarian website, he has done so in at least three states, but has lived only in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.