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About Granite State Progress

Granite State Progress is a progressive advocacy organization that addresses issues of immediate state and local concern. Granite State Progress works as a communications hub for the progressive community to provide a strong, credible voice in advancing progressive solutions to critical community problems.

ACA Marketplace Numbers Are Up, Advocates Make Final Push To Get Covered

Latest ACA Marketplace Numbers Show New Hampshire on Track – But Without 6 More Weeks to Enroll, Health Care Advocates Pushing Hard to December 15th Deadline 

Thousands sign up for new coverage, but with shortened open enrollment period and minimal publicity, local health care consumer and advocacy groups hustle to fill the gaps in New Hampshire before December 15th ACA Marketplace deadline 

Concord, NH – New Hampshire health care consumer and advocacy groups are making a final push to bolster Affordable Care Act Marketplace enrollment before the upcoming deadline on Friday. And in a protracted enrollment period, they are finding success: According to the latest enrollment report from CMS, 25,242 Granite Staters had enrolled in a new plan by December 9th. During the same time period in the last enrollment period, 21,154 Granite Staters had selected a plan by December 10th.

Other key facts from the latest enrollment numbers:

  • 3,728 more people enrolled in New Hampshire than this time last year – or 17% more
  • 662,652 more people enrolled across the nation than this time last year – or 17% more
  • Another 31,510 Granite Staters enrolled or auto-enrolled in coverage during this week and the additional 6 weeks of open enrollment last year – or 59.4% of total enrollment

Health care consumer and advocacy groups note that the enrollment numbers to date are promising, but with this year’s open enrollment period cut in half and advertising for it slashed by 90 percent, many Granite State individuals and families could be left out in the cold unless they enroll by the December 15th deadline. Advocates remain focused on a public education and outreach campaign that over the last 5 weeks has sought to ensure Granite Staters know how, when, where, and why to enroll in health insurance before the December 15th deadline.

“We are committed to making sure Granite Staters have important information about the open enrollment period and the resources available to them to find and afford critical health care coverage,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress Education Fund and project manager for Covering New Hampshire. 

The ACA public education and outreach campaign to date has included direct mail, paid digital ads, social media, video shorts, neighborhood literature drops, and a massive grassroots campaign to put important information about the ACA open enrollment period in front of New Hampshire individuals and families. In addition to the paid efforts, volunteers adopted more than 165 towns to distribute posters and flyers and mailed packets to local libraries, food banks, after-school programs, and community groups. Nearly 88% of New Hampshire residents live in a community covered by the outreach.

The effort is run by Covering New Hampshire in conjunction with Granite State Progress Education Fund and the NH Health Care Coalition, and made possible with grants from the HNH Foundation and NH Charitable Foundation.

“We are incredibly pleased with our progress to date, but with the open enrollment period cut in half we are in a full-out sprint to the December 15th deadline to encourage individuals and families to enroll in health care coverage,” Rice Hawkins said. “Free help is available, and just a click or call away. It is important for people to know that those who choose to go without health insurance may have to pay a penalty.”

Louise Spencer, co-founder of the Kent Street Coalition and one of the volunteer leads on the Covering New Hampshire campaign, added: “It is important that you sign up by December 15th, regardless of whether this is your first time getting covered or if you are returning to shop and save. Coverage could be cheaper than you think. Last year, 8 in 10 people qualified for financial help to make their monthly premiums more affordable and most people found plans available between $50 to $100 per month. Even if you had coverage through HealthCare.gov in the past, plans change so you should still update your information and double-check your network coverage for doctors and prescriptions, or see if you qualify for more cost-savings.”


To learn more about local resources, including in-person help to sign up and upcoming enrollment fairs, Granite Staters can visit https://coveringnewhampshire.org/. Consumers ready to apply for coverage can also go directly to 1-800-318-2596 or www.healthcare.gov.


NH GOP Is Divided Over Free Staters Moving On In Manchester City Elections

A Dozen Free State Project Candidates Advance to Manchester Municipal General Election Amid NH GOP Divide Over Secession  

Free State Project members running for political office often hide or deny their FSP affiliation; Granite State Progress’ Free State Project Watch exposes those connections; In response to report, WMUR NH Primary Source covers NH GOP divide over whether to support Free State Project candidates, some of whom are openly organizing for secession 

Concord, NH – At least a dozen Free State Project candidates will advance to the Manchester municipal general election in November, according to Granite State Progress’ Free State Project Watch. Andre Rosa, the only Free State Project member candidate with a contested primary, narrowly lost his primary bid to represent Ward 11 on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Granite State Progress highlighted Rosa’s participation in the Free State Project in a press release last week; Rosa subsequently lost placing on the ballot by only 14 votes [148-162].

Meanwhile, WMUR NH Primary Source reported today that prominent members of the New Hampshire Republican Party are clashing over Granite State Progress’ report on Free State Project candidates.

“Free State Project candidates running for state house or municipal office don’t openly share their extreme views when campaigning for office, which is why Granite State Progress created Free State Project Watch to better educate voters and constituents. Free Staters moved to New Hampshire as part of a group with the stated purpose to take over state government and dismantle it, and to use the threat of secession once they meet their initial goals. Members of the media and public are strongly encouraged to ask Free State Project candidates whether they disclose their FSP affiliation in campaign materials and, if not, why,” said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress. “It is heartening to see Republican leaders in the state join their Democratic counterparts in raising serious concerns about the Free State Project and its goals. We urge NH GOP Chair Jeanie Forrester to listen to the concerns of leadership and rank and file members, and to stop recruiting Free Staters as candidates for office.”

The Free State Project candidate list is part of the Free State Project Watch of Granite State Progress, and can be found online at https://freestateprojectwatch.org/. Granite State Progress released similar candidate lists during the 2012, 2014, and 2016 general elections, and reviews municipal candidate filings periodically.

Previous press releases:

Granite State Progress Releases List of 13 Free State Project Candidates Running for Municipal Office in Manchester, Thursday, September 14, 2017

Breaking: House Speaker Shawn Jasper Condemns Free State Project Electeds, Manchester Candidates Calling for Secession, Friday, September 15, 2017

Free State Project member candidates in Manchester general election by ward and office, including links to Granite State Progress’ Free State Project Watch profile on each candidate:

Ward 3: Selectman candidate Phillip Harris

Ward 3: School Committee candidate Phillip Harris

Ward 4: Moderator candidate Colin Gibson

Ward 4: Clerk candidate Holly Beene Seal

Ward 5: Aldermanic candidate Cameron Barr*

Ward 5: Selectman candidate Cameron Barr*

Ward 5: Selectman candidate Michael Garcia*

Ward 6: Clerk candidate Chandler Blair Gabel*

Ward 8: Selectman candidate William Cerf*

Ward 10: Aldermanic candidate Tammy Simmons (Honorary FSP member)

Ward 10: Clerk candidate Merav Yaakov

Ward 11: Selectman candidate Andrew Vermiglio*

Ward 11: Selectman candidate Alexander Avery

Ward 11: School Committee candidate Alexander Avery

Ward 12: Selectman candidate Clarence Gardner*

* Free State Project members with additional roles or volunteer lead assignments with NH Exit or Foundation for New Hampshire Independence, Free State Project off-shoot groups specifically dedicated to organizing for New Hampshire to secede from the United States, in addition to the Free State Project itself threatening secession. See full candidate profiles for more details.


Dept of Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut Holds Non-Town Hall, Town Hall

Concord, NH – NH Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut participated in an event this yesterday afternoon at New England College in Henniker. A moderator read written questions from the audience, though audience members were not allowed to follow-up, ask for clarification, or encourage Commissioner Edelblut to fully answer questions.

“We thank the sponsors and hosts of this event, but we look forward to Governor Sununu’s Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut hosting a real town hall where he engages directly with members of the public and honestly answers the questions posed to him,” said Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins. “Commissioner Edelblut refused to answer questions regarding his stance on full day kindergarten, he continued to lobby for SB 193 school vouchers, he spoke about the importance of safe schools but declined to state whether he still believes in guns in public schools, and he tried to present himself as a supporter of LGBTQ students when in fact he spoke out against the Obama administration guidelines on creating safe, positive learning environments for transgender students.”

“Commissioner Edelblut continues to put his personal ideology over the interests of Granite State students and should be held accountable for his words and actions,” Rice-Hawkins added.

During the event Commissioner Edelblut showed his lack of knowledge on several topics, including forgetting the name and mission of a DOE program he tried to name drop as well as completely boggling a question concerning alternative youth discipline measures in school settings. Granite State Progress will release a complete fact check and video next week. Members of Granite State Progress, Rights and Democracy, and other groups stood outside the event for an hour before it began to greet Commissioner Edelblut and send a strong message we are watching.

More pictures are available at @ProgressNH on Twitter.

Participants inside the event were polite and listened for Commissioner Edelblut’s answers, but vocally held him accountable to answer when he (frequently) attempted to evade direct questions.

Just two months into his position as Education Commissioner, Edelblut has already made waves for trying to re-open the Next Generation Science Standards that were just approved last year; he initially refused to come clean about making a donation to a school privatization lawsuit against the Department he now leads; he forwarded an internal job posting to one of his Free State Project friends and then sent that individual’s resume to the HR director (that individual is also on the Board of an off-shoot group organizing for New Hampshire to secede from the rest of the country); he is using his position to lobby for SB 193, school vouchers/privatization; and he tried to usurp the State Board of Education’s rule-making responsibilities by injecting himself between the State Board and JLCAR – all without informing the State Board.

New SB 3 Amendment Could Sent Vigilantes To Verify Residency

Amended Version of SB 3 Much Worse Than Original Bill, Still Sends Police to Voter Doors and Now Authorizes Vigilantes Too

In a rushed amendment vote, Senate Republicans try to replace section of bill that caused largest public outcry but instead leave same result and 10x worse 

Concord, NH – The NH Senate Election Law committee amended SB 3 on Tuesday to remove sending police to voter doors by name, but the amended version uses covert language to still actually allow the supervisor of the checklist to send police to your door – and now goes even further by allowing them to deputize the local town conspiracy theorist or vigilante group to do it as well.

There’s a section in the amended SB 3, as passed by Senate Republicans on the Election Law Committee yesterday, that states “agents” can be sent to voter doors to verify that they live there. There is no limit on who can be designated an agent for this purpose, nor are there any provisions for proper training or how to conduct these checks; an open carry activist or an individual ideologically opposed to college students voting could be among those deputized.

In the latest version of SB 3 the following was removed: “Requesting local law enforcement during their routine patrols to visit the address and verify that the individual was domiciled there on election day” and the bill language modified from “Requesting 2 or more supervisors or other municipal officials to visit the address and verify that the individual was domiciled there on election day” to “Requesting 2 or more supervisors or municipal, county, or state election officers or their agents to visit the address and verify that the individual was domiciled  there on election day.” (SB 3 Amendment #2017-0978s, Senate Election Law Executive Session on Tuesday, March 21, 2017)

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“SB 3 has been poorly written from the start but this latest amendment makes it ten times worse. Senate Republicans attempted to quiet public outcry over the provision of sending police officers to voter doors but in doing so they passed an amendment that actually allows that and more. Under the amended version, checklist supervisors can still send law enforcement or they can deputize others to conduct the checks, which could include deputizing voter suppression activists or even vigilante groups. In fact, there are now no limits whatsoever on whom they could send. It is shameful that Senate Republicans took credit during committee for removing the police officer provision by name while simultaneously opening the back door for the same activity and worse. SB 3 is nothing more than an attack on voting rights. It creates a poll tax by requiring financial transactions for many of the verifiable acts listed, and it penalizes voters $5,000 for being a day late with paperwork even if they did nothing wrong when registering to vote. In the hours-long public hearing, testimony highlighted that the bill will disproportionately impact eligible voters including students, low-income people, homeless veterans, and domestic violence survivors. New Hampshire politicians have many more pressing issues to deal with than needlessly attacking voting rights with harmful bills like SB 3.” 

Senate Republicans offered the amendment in committee Tuesday morning and called a vote less than 30 minutes later, denying Senate Democrats and voting rights advocates an opportunity to review the language and provide feedback prior to the vote. It is unclear whether the poorly written amendment was intentional or a result of Senate Republicans jamming the bill forward without regard for public input or voter impact.

Science Wednesday: Frank Edelblut on Climate Change Denial and Creationism in the Classroom

In testimony Frank Edelblut said he would rely on the ‘experts’ – but NASA and the majority of climate scientists can’t convince him man-made climate change is real

CONCORD, NH – NH Commissioner of Education nominee Frank Edelblut told members of the Executive Council that he does not need a background in education because he will rely on the experts, but when it comes to creationism in the science classroom or whether humans contribute to climate change Edelblut has chosen not to listen to experts. At the same time, Edelblut asserts the Education Commissioner has no role in science curriculum, standards, or oversight.

Frank Edelblut on Creationism in the Science Classroom 

Edelblut refused to clearly answer a Union Leader reporter’s question about whether he’d support teaching creationism in science curriculum, stating: “In science, we should study all theories of human origins, all legitimate or substantive theories of human origins … What I would advocate is for good science, and good science should support all theories of human origins, whatever they might be.” [Union Leader, Former opponent Edelblut tapped by Sununu for top education post, 1.18.17]

Edelblut similarly refused to clearly answer Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky’s question of the same nature, instead punting the matter above and below the office he seeks and asserting the Education Commissioner will have no role in anything to do with science curriculum or science standards. “You will be the chief educator to whom all of the science teachers in our state will report,” Volinsky said. “Do you subscribe to this such that the science teachers need to worry about whether you will require creationism to be taught alongside evolution?” … “As an individual with a master’s degree in theology, there are other understandings of human origins,” Edelblut said. “And finally, as the commissioner of education, I will not have jurisdiction or responsibility for the development of curricula. That I believe remains in the domain of the science teachers and the local school boards.” … He said it would be a matter for the state board of education and local school boards to decide.” [WMUR, Education chief nominee Edelblut questioned on qualifications, ties to Christian college, 1.31.17]


Frank Edelblut, Climate Change Denier

During a WMUR political debate last fall, Edelblut claimed it is unknown whether climate change is man-made, despite wide-spread scientific consensus it is.  

WMUR’s Josh McElveen: Next question we’re all going to talk about touching on climate change. As you all know, we’re all in one of the worst droughts that New Hampshire has seen in decades. Parts of the country are on fire. Others are dealing with historic flooding. So, we’re going to start with you on this one Representative Edelblut. Do you agree with Donald Trump when he says “This is just weather” or even “a hoax”? 

Edelblut: Alright, so we do know that the temperature is warming.  What we don’t know is if that is man-made. We don’t know what the causes of it are, if there’s other causes. And we don’t know that all of the efforts that are being taken have any opportunity to reverse that. So, I would be very cautious to craft policy around what has become, really, in many circles an ideology about climate change. So, I would not support efforts that would limit our opportunities for energy which we need in our state and in our communities or other areas.

McElveen: You’re not sold that it’s real?

Edelblut: I’m not sold.” [WMUR Debate, Frank Edelblut, 9.6.16] 

Fact Check recently published an article detailing how NASA, climate scientists, and other experts all agree that human-caused climate change is very real.

Fact Check: “Scientific evidence supports … that human-caused climate change is real. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that human changes to the planet, especially the emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels, “are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” Human-caused climate change is also considered real according to 97 percent of climate scientists, as we’ve written. “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities,” says NASA. A team of more than 300 experts at the U.S. Global Change research program are among that 97 percent. “The burning of coal, oil, and gas, and clearing of forests have increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than 40% since the Industrial Revolution, and it has been known for almost two centuries that this carbon dioxide traps heat,” the team explains in the Third National Climate Assessment report. The report adds, “Multiple lines of independent evidence confirm that [these] human activities are the primary cause of the global warming of the past 50 years.” [Fact Check, The Candidates on Climate Change, November 2, 2016] 

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins: 

“Frank Edelblut needs to finally give a straight yes or no answer about whether he believes creationism should be taught as a valid scientific theory. We are also very concerned about whether Mr. Edelblut fully understands the role of the Education Commissioner since he continues to punt on serious questions. Edelblut repeatedly told the Executive Council that he doesn’t need a background or training in education because he will rely on the experts, but apparently NASA and the majority of climate scientists are not expert enough for him when they release facts that interfere with his personally held political ideologies. There is a real conversation taking place in America’s classrooms regarding teaching children fact-based science around man-made climate change, and even Edelblut’s fiercest supporters brought this up– albeit in support of Mr. Edelblut and in opposition to the new science standards.”

Flashback Video: Frank Edelblut Testifying Against Banning Unethical Gay Conversion Therapy for Minors

 It’s not quite like the story he told the Executive Council 

CONCORD, NH – Today as the New Hampshire Senate holds a public hearing on SB 224, relative to conversion therapy seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation, Granite State Progress is releasing a video of last year’s public hearing on a similar bill when now-NH Commissioner of Education nominee Frank Edelblut testified for 20 minutes and also voted on the floor against banning unethical gay conversion therapy for minors. 

GSP Video: NH’s Frank Edelblut Compares Being LGBTQ to Having a Drinking Problem


“Individuals who failed to change sexual orientation, while believing they should have changed with such efforts, describe their experiences as a significant cause of emotional and spiritual distress and negative self-imaging. Just like you would have negative effects if you tried to quit smoking – those people tend to have negative effects – when you’re trying to break a drinking habit, you have negative effects, when you’re trying to break drugs – you have a negative effect. So they’re expressing this concern.” – Frank Edelblut, April 5, 2016

During the public hearing on his nomination, Edelblut purposely downplayed his position on conversion therapy and LGBTQ rights in general. As reported in the Union Leader:

“Edelblut, answering another question by Pappas, did not commit to opposing conversion therapy for LGBT minors. He said his testimony last year on a bill to ban conversion therapy was meant to point out that the information contained in the bill was “inconsistent” with studies cited in the bill. “I think good science requires that you read the literature,” Edelblut said. “We had a bill that came before the legislature that made reference to studies. I read the studies and I understood what the underlying issues were, so I could be knowledgeable about the bill. When I saw inconsistencies in the studies with the information presented, I thought it was important to that we made that information public.” [Union Leader, NH Primary Source: Ayotte-Trump ‘fence-mending’ welcomed by key Republicans, February 2, 2017; HB1661, Roll Call #167, 3/23/2016] 

In reality, Edelblut is on the fundraising board of directors for Patrick Henry College, an evangelical college that explicitly prohibits homosexuality and marriage equality, students dressing “in a way that will cause others to mistake them for a member of the other sex” and transgender rights.

  • “The College chooses to limit its student body, board, and staff to those who are committed to its statement of faith. The practice of homosexual conduct or other extramarital sexual relations is inconsistent with the College’s faith position.” [Patrick Henry College, Student Handbook, 2016]
  • “Students will dress modestly out of consideration for one another.  Also, students will not dress in a way that will cause others to mistake them for a member of the other sex (e.g., 1 Tim 2:9; Deut 22:5).” [Patrick Henry College, Student Handbook, 2016]
  • “Sexual Identity: Since God created mankind in His own image as male and female, men and women are sexually different but with equal personal dignity.  Consequently, any attempts to physically change, alter, or disagree with one’s predominant biological sex, including but not limited to elective sex-reassignment, transvestite, transgender, or non-binary “genderqueer” acts or conduct are sinful.” [Patrick Henry College, Student Handbook, 2016]
  • From local newspaper of record: “Gay students at Patrick Henry College in Purcellville don’t exist. They can’t exist. So says Dr. Michael Farris, the college’s founder and chancellor. It’s simple, really. Homosexuals can’t exist at Patrick Henry College because the students sign an honor code, Farris claimed. “[Homosexuals] could not sign our honor code,” Farris said, adding that he considers the actions of gay men and women “sinful.” [Loudoun Times-Mirror, ‘Queer at Patrick Henry College’ vexes school’s chancellor, Dec. 12, 2012]
  • “Statement of Ethical Values and Standards. All trustees, administrators, and staff of Patrick Henry College have the right, privilege, and responsibility to … Integrate a biblical worldview into all aspects of their professional lives.” [Patrick Henry College, Student Handbook, 2016]

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins: 

“Edelblut compared anti-LGBTQ counseling – and therefore, being gay or lesbian – to counseling to end a smoking, drinking, or drug addiction. He also spoke out against the federal Department of Education’s guidance on transgender students which sought to ensure transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment. He’s spent at least seven years fundraising for a college that considers marriage equality a sin and openly prohibits students from being gay, lesbian, or transgender. The college also states very clearly that those connected with it have a responsibility to ‘integrate a biblical worldview into all aspects of their professional lives.’ Edelblut’s anti-LGBTQ background and activities raise real concerns about whether he will work to ensure all children have a safe and welcoming learning environment in New Hampshire.”

Breaking: Governor Sununu Considered Free State Project Member Jody Underwood for NH Education Commissioner*

*According to Free Stater Jody Underwood, she was under consideration for NH Education Commissioner 

New Hampshire deserves to know if Frank Edelblut will consider her for any division director openings at Department of Education – at the same time her family is pushing for New Hampshire to secede from the rest of the country

From Wikipedia CC

MANCHESTER, NH – Free State Project member Jody Underwood claims she was considered for the position of NH Commissioner of Education. Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins: 

“Governor Sununu should answer whether he considered Jody Underwood for the position of NH Commissioner of Education, and whether he or current nominee Frank Edelblut plan to consider her for any open division director appointments. Underwood is part of an extreme political movement with a stated mission to take over state government and dismantle it, and her husband is actively organizing for New Hampshire to secede from the rest of the country. Governor Sununu is playing dangerous games with New Hampshire’s future. Did Governor Sununu actually consider her for the role and does Frank Edelblut plan to work closely with her as he has in the past? Both Jody Underwood and her husband testified in support of Frank Edelblut for Education Commissioner at the Executive Council public hearing.”

Free State Project member Jody Underwood claims she was considered for NH Education Commissioner. Underwood made the claim in the description for a workshop she gave at the Free State Project’s NH Liberty Forum in Manchester this past weekend. The workshop “We don’t need no stinkin’ leaders: Getting things done in the world of NH Education” (sic) was held Saturday, February 4th at 4:00 PM. The last line of the workshop description – which was likely written before Sununu announced Edelblut – states: “I now find myself being considered for the position of NH Commissioner of Education. How does that happen, especially to someone who isn’t particularly political? Maybe I am a leader. Come find out.” http://nhlibertyforum.com/schedule/ Sat Feb 4 4:00 PM 

According to the Free State Project, the Underwoods moved to New Hampshire with the Free State Project in 2007 as “early movers” – the FSP’s most ardent supporters who moved early. Jody Underwood served on the FSP board of directors until last summer. She is currently a school board member in Croydon and brought a lawsuit against the NH Department of Education.


Underwood’s husband Ian – who also testified in support of Frank Edelblut – also hosted a workshop at the event. Title: “A Case for New Hampshire Independence.” Description: “The goal of the Foundation for New Hampshire Independence, a 501c3 nonprofit, is to educate Granite Staters about the benefits of the ‘Live Free or Die’ state peacefully declaring its independence and separating from the federal government of the United States. Join FNHI board members Ian Underwood of Bardo Project and Carla Gericke, president of FNHI, to discuss what the future of New Hampshire could look like as an autonomous state.” http://nhlibertyforum.com/schedule/ Fri Feb 3 10:00 AM (Carla Gericke is the former President of the Free State Project – she also testified in support of Frank Edelblut) 

Frank Edelblut has a history of involvement with the Free State Project. As recently as last summer, Edelblut participated in a panel at the Free State Project’s annual PorcFest. The workshop was titled “Exploring Your Child’s Educational Fit” and the description read: “This group of experienced parents have directed their children’s educations. Come hear their experiences with homeschooling, charter schools, private schools, and online education.” The workshop notably does not include traditional public education as a potential educational fit, nor does it include any perspectives from a traditional public education family. The panel was moderated by Jody Underwood and Frank Edelblut participated as a panelist.


About the Free State Project. A decade ago, the ultra-extreme Free State Project voted on a state to move 20,000 libertarians to, with the stated purpose to take over state government and dismantle it. New Hampshire was unfortunately the unlucky recipient of that vote. The Free State Project seeks to create a libertarian “utopia” void of public infrastructure and common laws, and to use their numbers to dramatically change New Hampshire. The Free State Project even threatens to secede from the rest of the country once it meets its initial goals: 

“Once we’ve taken over the state government, we can slash state and local budgets, which make up a sizeable proportion of the tax and regulatory burden we face every day. Furthermore, we can eliminate substantial federal interference by refusing to take highway funds and the strings attached to them. Once we’ve accomplished these things, we can bargain with the national government over reducing the role of the national government in our state. We can use the threat of secession as leverage to do this.”

The Free State Project
 by Founder Jason Sorens

Granite State Progress has monitored the Free State Project since 2008, particularly its attempts to field candidates and disrupt public policy.

Unqualified Edelblut Needs To Answer These Questions Prior To Executive Council Vote

Questions Governor Sununu’s Unqualified and Unfit Nominee For NH Education Commissioner Needs to Answer Before Executive Council Vote 

By letter of the law, Frank Edelblut is not qualified for Education Commissioner – and even if he were, his views on education and children make him unfit to serve

Concord, NH – The Executive Council vote on Governor Chris Sununu’s nominee for NH Education Commissioner was put on hold today after it was revealed that Governor Sununu had failed to adequately consult with the New Hampshire Board of Education. Other things Governor Sununu failed to do include nominating an individual who meets the state law that the commissioner must be qualified by reason of education and experience, as well as ignoring several substantive questions regarding Edelblut’s past votes and statements.

The Executive Council should do its due diligence and get full, public answers from Frank Edelblut on these questions and others before moving forward:

Does Mr. Edelblut believe New Hampshire should have statewide assessment tests, and if not, what alternative would he propose? In 2016, Edelblut voted to allow parents and guardians to opt their students out of the statewide assessment test. However, on his Live Free or Die candidate questionnaire just a few months ago, the only question Mr. Edelblut skipped was whether he thinks statewide assessment tests should exist or what alternative he would propose. Certainly an individual who voted to allow parents to opt-out of the testing and who is now willing to accept a nomination for Education Commissioner should have a well-defined and articulate position on this policy. (HB 1338, Roll Call #155, 3/23/16, LFDA, Frank Edelblut)

Does Mr. Edelblut believe parents have a responsibility to educate their children? Does he believe the government has a compelling interest to ensure a minimum level of education for children? Mr. Edelblut sponsored an ALEC model Parental Rights Amendment that would remove community protections for children. This bill would have given a parent the final word on their child’s health, education and welfare – even if it meant the child was put at risk or danger. Advocacy groups spoke out against this bill here and in other states because of the potential for it to remove community protections for children and/or to interfere with an adequate and inclusive education, including whether to provide any education at all. (CACR16, Roll Call #134, 3/10/2016 ALEC Model Legislation: Parental Rights Amendment)

What will Mr. Edelblut do to ensure LGBTQ children have safe learning environments? Mr. Edelblut voted against banning unethical gay conversion therapy seeking to change a child’s sexual orientation or gender identity. In testimony, Edelblut compared this anti-LGBT counseling (and therefore, being gay or lesbian) to counseling to end a smoking, drinking, or drug habit. He also spoke out against the Obama administration’s Department of Education guidance on transgender students which sought to ensure transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment. If a family with a transgender youth requests support in a school district that will not work with them to provide accommodations, what will Mr. Edelblut do? (HB1661, Roll Call #167, 3/23/2016)

Why did Mr. Edelblut vote against requiring the Department of Education to designate a dyslexia specialist to support school districts with dyslexic students? The bipartisan bill, which became a law despite Edelblut’s vote, required the Commissioner of the Department of Education to designate a reading specialist to provide support and resources to school districts for identifying and assisting students with dyslexia and related disorders and their families.  The bill originated from a study committee that was tasked with identifying ways to improve outcomes for dyslexic students. Mr. Edelblut has stated he does not need a background in education because he will rely on experts to help shape department decisions, but in this instance he chose not to listen to the expert advice of a panel specifically convened to help identify ways to improve educational outcomes for children with dyslexia. (HB1644, Roll Call #44, 2/10/2016)

  • Furthermore, what does Mr. Edelblut believe is working with services for children with special education needs and what does he think needs to be improved? Can he name specific policies?
  • Does Mr. Edelblut believe in mainstreaming children with developmental disabilities? What are his specific policy stances in this regard?

Does Mr. Edelblut believe creationism should be taught as a valid scientific theory, yes or no?  Last week, Mr. Edelblut refused to clearly answer a reporter’s question about whether he’d support teaching creationism in science curriculum, stating: “In science, we should study all theories of human origins, all legitimate or substantive theories of human origins … What I would advocate is for good science, and good science should support all theories of human origins, whatever they might be.” (Union Leader, Former opponent Edelblut tapped by Sununu for top education post, 1.18.17)

Does Mr. Edelblut believe we should allow people to carry guns in public schools? Mr. Edelblut voted last spring to require all state-funded facilities to allow firearms on their premises, including hospitals, day care centers, drug treatment centers, and halfway houses. Parents have a right to know his position on firearms in public schools. (HB1314, Roll Call #144, 3/10/2016) 

How would Mr. Edelblut respond to various situations if asked to provide guidance or weigh in? For example, this summer in Manchester a school board member spoke out against books with what he called “politically correct themes like slavery, bigotry, etc., etc.” which he considered to be a part of a political agenda. Some of the books in question referenced Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, and Amelia Earhart. The Executive Council should pose hypothetical questions of this nature given Mr. Edelblut’s background in politics instead of education, and based on the fact he wouldn’t commit to stay out of partisan politics if confirmed as Education Commissioner. (Manchester School District SAU #37, Committee on Curriculum and Instruction, School Board Member Richard H. Girard – Page 44 or Video – Hour 1:51, 6/28/16) 

Other possible questions: What does he think about the current requirements for para-educator certification? Does he believe New Hampshire should accept federal funding for education? What kind of relationship should exist between the homeschooling community and local school districts, and what is the responsibility of local school districts and the Department of Education in these instances? 

Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins: “Its half-way thru the school year, Mr. Edelblut does not have time for on the job training. We need to know how he would handle various situations. At a minimum, the questions put forward at the public hearing should be answered by Mr. Edelblut before the Executive Council moves forward. We must speak up for a strong public education, and for leaders who will create a positive learning environment for all children regardless of their background, identity, or ability. We strongly urge the Executive Council to vote down this nomination and find a candidate better suited to the position.” 

NH House Committee Approves Overturning 94 Year Old Concealed Carry Law

Granite State Progress Statement on NH House Committee Vote to Allow Dangerous People to Legally Carry Hidden, Loaded Weapons (SB 12)

House Committee votes to overturn 94 year old New Hampshire public safety law 

Concord, NH – The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee held a public hearing and executive session today on SB 12, which seeks to repeal a 94 year old concealed carry licensing law that helps prevent dangerous people from being able to legally carry hidden, loaded weapons. Statement from Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins:

“New Hampshire is opening the door to allow dangerous individuals with a track record of violence to legally carry hidden, loaded weapons. It is reasonable to deny concealed carry permits to those who are a danger to themselves or others. Requiring a license to carry a concealed weapon has worked well for New Hampshire for more than 90 years. These licenses are very easy and quick to obtain and do not place an unreasonable burden on law abiding citizens. SB 12 is a radical piece of legislation that will jeopardize public safety. The common sense law we have in place now allows local police departments to deny a license when there is reason to believe a person is a danger to themselves or others. For example, if an individual in a community is a known domestic abuser but has yet to be indicted, or has a hot temper and a habit of getting into bar fights, New Hampshire thankfully provides our local police departments with the ability to reject their concealed carry application.” 

In testimony Granite State Progress called on state legislators to decide whether they stand on the side of law enforcement and public safety – or with those like Mark Doyon, whose concealed carry license denial was upheld in court:

“In a 2014 NH Supreme Court case, an individual named Mark Doyon sued the town of Hooksett for denying his concealed carry license. Doyon had a prior criminal threatening conviction and an arrest for domestic violence, among other things. He told a Manchester police officer, “If you f.-k with my dog, I’ll f.-king kill you.”  The NH Supreme Court noted that on his domestic violence-related simple assault charge: “As part of a negotiated agreement, the town placed the charge on file without a finding, and a criminal bail protective order was entered against the petitioner prohibiting him from contacting the complainant.” On paper, Doyon was not a prohibited person, but in real life, he was not a suitable person to carry a hidden, loaded weapon. The courts sided with the local police department. As members of the committee, you need to decide whether you stand on the side of someone like Doyon, or whether you stand with the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police and other law enforcement who have spoken out against this repeal repeatedly over the years.” 

In addition to local law enforcement opposition, in 2004 Senate President Chuck Morse and several Republicans voted against a similar repeal bill. A copy of Granite State Progress testimony in opposition to SB 12 is available upon request, along with more information about how concealed carry laws work. It also includes recommendations for ways New Hampshire can strengthen public safety laws, rather than weakening them.

Granite State Progress Calls on Governor Sununu, Majority Leader Hinch to Name At Least 5 Businesses That Will Move to NH If Right to Work Passes

CONCORD, NH – Granite State Progress is calling on Governor Chris Sununu and House Republican Majority Leader Dick Hinch to name at least five businesses that will move to New Hampshire if so-called Right to Work passes. Both politicians made statements during last week’s inauguration and interviews that passing Right to Work is important for business development and that businesses will move to the state upon passage. However, when media outlets questioned NH Speaker Bill O’Brien over the same claim in 2011 he was unable to name even a single business. Instead, both NH’s Commissioner of Labor and NH’s Commissioner of Resources and Economic Development at the time confirmed that not a single business had asked about the legislation:

Union Leader, Businesses are not asking for the right-to-work bill by George Copadis, NH Commissioner of Labor: “Not once has the topic of right-to-work ever come up in all of [their] discussions with New Hampshire businesses and prospective businesses.” [5.24.11]

“Right to Work is wrong for working families and its wrong for New Hampshire,” said Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins. “This is nothing more than an attempt to undermine workers’ rights and create another hurdle for working families to come together to negotiate for good jobs with reasonable wages and benefits, job safety, and job training. The politicians and special interest backers pushing this policy should instead support raising wages, end off-shoring of our jobs, and pass family-friendly workplace policies that respect the contributions workers bring to increasing profits in our country.”

Senate Bill 11, this year’s version of so-called Right to Work, is up for a public hearing on Tuesday, January 10th at 1:00 pm in Representatives Hall in Concord. Granite State Progress is publicly calling on Governor Sununu and Majority Leader Hinch to release a list of the companies they purport will bring jobs to New Hampshire if the state passes legislation that hurts working families.

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