By MARK S. MacKENZIE
As the clock winds down toward Election Day, the TV ads and phone calls will have reached a fevered pitch. Yet many Granite Staters couldn’t care less about the mass advertising being directed their way. What they have been looking for – and might still be looking for – are answers to some very basic questions: How will this candidate help me and my family weather tough times? How will this candidate help me and my neighbors find jobs? How will this candidate help ensure that the jobs we have pay enough to keep up with the rising cost of living?
For so many of us, it comes down to economic opportunity. Over the past 30 years, the richest 1 percent in this country has taken home nearly 50 percent of all income gains. Meanwhile, our roads and bridges are crumbling, taxes on the middle class have risen, and working people have struggled more and more to pay the bills. The economy is slowly recovering, but too many men and women in our state have yet to feel that things have gotten better.
The Senate race between Scott Brown and Jeanne Shaheen is one race where the contrast is clear. As a two-term governor who was elected to the Senate in 2008, Shaheen has a record of creating jobs, pooling resources to help our communities and small businesses, and working around the gridlock in Congress to deliver for New Hampshire working people.
As governor, she was a careful steward of taxpayer dollars and a strategic financial manager. She established a $1 million-a-year job-training fund that helped businesses upgrade the skills of their current employees and train new ones. She tripled New Hampshire’s rainy day fund and put together the state’s first economic plan.
As senator, Shaheen created jobs for hundreds of workers when she fought for a federal prison to be built in Berlin. She connected 1,200 Granite Staters to homeowners’ assistance in order to help them avoid foreclosure. She has worked across the aisle with U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte to fight furloughs at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and reopen the government after it shut down in 2013.
Contrast that with Scott Brown, whose interests don’t go much further than Scott Brown. He set his sights on New Hampshire after losing his seat as a Massachusetts senator and only moved north after looking at several bids for public office in other states. During his tenure in Massachusetts, he held up crucial aid to unemployed workers and opposed tax cuts to middle-class Americans if they didn’t include huge tax breaks for the rich.
As a member of the board of directors of Kadant, an equipment supplier for the paper industry, he collected $270,000 after the company shipped American jobs overseas. Two months ago, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO and the State Employees Association of New Hampshire asked Scott Brown to resign from the board of directors. He has yet to honor that request.
Serving as senator is not about reaching for that next rung on the career ladder or making your next million; it is about helping the men and women who have trusted you to represent their best interests. Jeanne Shaheen understands New Hampshire – its unique culture, economy and political significance. For Scott Brown, however, it is little more than a consolation prize.
Election Day is days away, and we are facing a stark choice. Super PACs have been bombarding New Hampshire with ads for months, but when it comes down to it, this election is about people. Your family. Your co-workers. Your neighbors. It’s about the community we share here in the Granite State.
When making the decision to vote on Nov. 4, we should not only look at what candidates’ ads say or what their proxies say, but what their records say. Our next senator should care about this state as much as we do. Granite Staters deserve nothing less.
(Mark S. MacKenzie is president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.)
Also published in the Concord Monitor: Friday, October 31, 2014