Something is Rotten in New Hampshire

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Heaven will direct it. Nay, let’s follow him.” – Marcellus and Horatio, from Hamlet, Act 1 – Scene 4

There have only been a handful of times when I felt the need to recant what I have said or written. Usually, it is not a case of error that drives me to readdress my position, but more a need for clarification of my intent. Such is the case regarding an article I wrote that focused on the office of New Hampshire’s secretary of state.

In early 2018, I wrote an article regarding my belief that as a state we have placed ourselves in a precarious position by allowing our current Secretary of State Bill Gardner to serve in that position for more than 40 years ( I stand by every word I wrote, but now I find myself stating what I hoped I would not have to say. Now more than ever, our state needs Bill Gardner.

In reading my original article there should be no doubt that I hold Gardner in high regard. Recent events require me to speak out again and reinforce the main themes. The secretary of state should not be thought of as a political position, and is an office deserving of a person untainted by partisan politics. The secretary of state is a position that calls for a person more in love with New Hampshire than power and political endeavors. Gardner is such a man. Colin Van Ostern is not.

Recently, 174 Democrats who will be serving in the New Hampshire House, voted to support Van Ostern over Gardner when the matter of secretary of state is decided in early December. This is by no means the final vote, but is a clear signal many Democrats are more than willing to break with precedent and vote for purely political motives in support of Van Ostern.

There is absolutely nothing indirect about this support, or Van Ostern’s “campaign” for the position. Gardner, a publicly identified Democrat, dared to function in the role of secretary of state with integrity and above partisan politics. For some, that is unacceptable. The New Hampshire Democratic Party on a whole is about to support an action that will have catastrophic effects on the state with aftershocks we will not be able to reverse. The rot will remain with New Hampshire forever.

In the case of Marcellus and Horatio, some historians believe these characters were speaking to corruption and deceit of the political state in Denmark during the period in which Hamlet is based upon. Today, I am speaking less of corruption and more to a subtle nefariousness, and I am not the only one who believes this. As much as I thought my original article spoke with absolute clarity, a recent piece by the Hon. Jim Splaine did a much better job describing the concerns many have regarding Van Ostern’s attempts to remove Gardner from office (

Splaine in some ways has a different policy perspective than me. However, he has spent more than 30 years in public service, working closely with Gardner. In a very important moment of clarity, beyond party lines, Splaine said it best when he stated: “I served 30 years in the N.H. House and Senate and have known Bill Gardner all of that time. I have seen up close that our elections have been run with integrity and without partisanship under the watchful eye of a staff of professionals led by Bill Gardner. We should continue that approach. While other states have seen politics and deceit in the way their elections are run, our state has avoided that.”

Now is the time to find out if you are a true New Hampshirite, independent in thought and deed, or merely a political being, less interested in what is good for the state, and more interested in advancing a political agenda. Now is the time to see if you understand the definition of “bipartisan,” “integrity” and “service.” Or if you are nothing more than the political creature you claim you detest.

Go ahead, walk away from my advice and elect Van Ostern as secretary of state, and watch the dominoes fall. New Hampshire will lose its special place as a state that is the beacon other states wish they were.

If Van Ostern is elected, New Hampshire will become everything we despise when we watch other states try to function. A political body made up of political creatures, more inclined to juvenile antics and less to adult behavior. What I cautioned you about in my original article will become the reality I feared and warned against. As I made quite clear, “If we want the role of secretary of state to devolve into a partisan position, absent of balance, then by all means, elect Van Ostern.”

I encourage everyone to read my original article and Splaine’s article. Two people some would consider as being on opposite sides of “the aisle,” but who share a common concern about the integrity and independent nature of the office of secretary of state. If you share that view, I encourage you to contact your representatives and let your voice be heard.

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