State Rep. Jack Flanagan hopes to unseat incumbent Democrat Annie Kuster for the 2nd district seat. But first, he must battle a busy primary field for the right to be the Republican Party’s candidate.
In an interview with New Hampshire Journal, Flanagan said he is running to advocate for economic development and for a balanced budget in Washington.
“The other thing is, I realize the legislative process is what I really enjoy. What I mean by that: if you have a problem, you can fix it with good policy,” he said.
For one example, when New Hampshire ran into a problem with high unemployment, the state responded by improving business conditions.
“We made the environment good for business,” he said. The former House Speaker and third-term representative said the solution called for taking the obvious steps, like cutting taxes and keeping “an eye on energy costs, which are high in the Northeast.” But New Hampshire went further by “even statutorily changing unemployment tax rates,” he said.
The continuing success has depended on “constantly keeping our eye on that ball to keep businesses happy and generate more jobs for people like you and me.
‘As you may know, I supported [Ohio Gov. John] Kasich for president, and he was big on balancing budgets,” Flanagan said. “As I did more and more research, I found out in 10 years the second largest expense in the federal budget is going to be interest.” Better to eliminate the interest payments and redirect the savings to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and the other programs.
“It makes sense if we have a balanced budget, we can take care of the people we serve,” he said.
“The other thing is, economic development,” he continued. “Economic development solves an awful lot of problems. If you and I become successful, then we earn more money. We spend more money; the economy grows.”
“At some point, our taxes will come down,” he said. “It all starts with a balanced budget. We don’t have that in Washington.”
Flanagan pointed to President Ronald Reagan to acknowledge government can’t solve all people’s problems.
“Don’t ever believe, ‘I’m here from the government; we’re going to take care of all your problems,”’ said Flanagan, alluding to the famous Reagan line. “But I think we can make the environment a better place.”
Asked about the opioid crisis, Flanagan described drug addiction as one of the state’s biggest problems and said he would favor a three-part solution — education, treatment and law enforcement.
Based on personal experience, he believes the public is not fully aware of the danger linked to prescription drugs.
“I broke five ribs in November,” he said, and in discussing painkillers with his physician, he learned a patient will become addicted quickly.
“After 11 days you’re addicted,” he said, but “it takes 30 some months to get off it. The brain chemistry is changed for almost three years.”
On treatment, he also believes the state must work with physicians “as it relates to prescribing,” delving into the number of days and the dosage.
“Also, there have been issues about law enforcement,” he said. “You see on TV all the people dying from it. Very rarely do you see people arrested for it. That will increase,” he predicted, with more funding.
The overall strategy will be to “limit the supply and limit the demand.”
The heroin is coming from Mexico, he stated, “but in the New England area, coming out of Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill (Mass.).”
Asked how he plans to beat Kuster, he replied he is working on name recognition but also feels 2016 will be a Republican year based on the presidential primary numbers.
According to Secretary of State William Gardner, 288,000 Republicans and 240,000 Democrat cast ballots in February, a mirror-image of the numbers in 2008 when President Obama ran.
“So, the numbers in the state look like it’s building toward a Republican year,” he said.
Despite supporting the Ohio governor in the primary, he will vote for the Republican nominee and anticipates Trump’s comments will be “moderating” now that he has secured the victory.
“I think people underestimate him,” Flanagan explains. “A lot of people are upset about what’s going on in Washington. A lot of people are participating, and more so on the Republican side. So let’s just see where it goes. See where the voters go.”
Shawn McCoy contributed to this report.