Gatsas Targets Drug Epidemic in Bid for Governor

The mayor of New Hampshire’s biggest city wants to become the Granite State’s new governor.

Republican Ted Gatsas entered the race because New Hampshire is facing “very serious issues,” and he’s the man who can solve the problems, he told New Hampshire Journal recently.

“I believe my business experience, my legislative experience and my executive experience bring me to the position to get things done,” he said.

Gatsas, 66, and his brother Michael started Staffing Network, an employee leasing company. They sold the business to ADP, and he went into politics, starting as an alderman. Since 2009, he has been the Manchester mayor, an office he sought at the urging of his mother and his wife, he said.

Before that, he served five terms as state senator.

“I ran in every election between 1999 and 2009,” he said and added those races sealed his reputation as a relentless and determined candidate. No one will campaign harder, talk to more voters or shake more hands than he will.

Expect action to end the drug epidemic gripping New Hampshire, he said when asked about his priorities.

On Day 1, he’ll declare a public health emergency in New Hampshire. He’ll also expand statewide the network of safe stations — fire houses where addicts can go for help. That program started in Manchester and has saved lives. Funds earmarked for the non-profit organizations helping the addicts must actually reach the communities, he explained.

Although he’ll attack the problem with treatment, education and prevention, Gatsas also means to beef up law enforcement.

He supports the expansion of Operation Granite Hammer to nab local dealers and take drugs off the streets. He also favors Felony First, the new state law which will allow the district attorneys to skip the probable cause hearing and move the felony cases up to Superior Court.

According to the plan his campaign rolled out June 15, Gatsas wants to see drug courts operating in all 10 counties.

Also, he said, the courts should be able to set the drug dealers’ bail high enough, so they can’t walk out of jail the day after they’re arrested.

Turning to his second priority, economic development, Gatsas said the state must reduce energy costs. High rates here are killing economic development.

That’s particularly unfair because New Hampshire produces a good amount of New England’s power, he said. In his view, 20 percent of the power generated in the Granite State should stay at home, “so New Hampshire is not a donor state.”

Energy costs are also hurting senior citizens on fixed incomes, he added. The state cannot afford to see rates spiraling out of control.

Third, the state has a role in stabilizing health costs by bringing the “patients, the doctors and the insurance companies to the table,” he said. He’s done that in Manchester, where health costs have been “stable for two years” and helped create a business-friendly climate, where employers will create jobs, he said.

Next, Gatsas wants to see improvements in education, so the students leaving high school are ready for the workforce.

“In Manchester, we created a school of technology,” the only one in the state where vocational technical programs are offered alongside the core curriculum, he said, referring to the revamping of the Manchester School of Technology, which is now a four-year high school. The first graduating class of 54 students received their diplomas this month, and they’re ready for the workforce.

There should be more such schools statewide, he said.

“Not everyone is going to college,” he said, and New Hampshire also needs plumbers, auto mechanics, hairdressers and culinary chefs.

“Those are the four major issues we’ll be talking about, he said. “Those are the issues I’m hearing from people.”

Gatsas has “crisscrossed the state talking to people” and plans to run a campaign steeped in retail politics.

“That’s exactly what New Hampshire voters want,” he said. “They want to shake your hand, look you in the eye, ask you a question.” Then they want to meet you again, ask the same question, and “hopefully get the same answer twice.”

He thrives on the give-and-take with voters and likes “going out and meeting the people.” The people-contact is his favorite thing about being in politics, he said.

“My door is always open,” Gatsas said. “We try to help everyone that asks.”

He did not endorse any of the presidential hopefuls in the New Hampshire Primary but will back Donald Trump.

“He is the nominee, and I certainly will support him,” Gatsas said. He anticipates Trump will campaign in New Hampshire, which is being closely watched as a battleground state.

“He’ll be here in New Hampshire and visiting,” Gatsas said, and he expects to “have a conversation” about how Trump can help the state.

But he’s not concerned the top of the ticket might negatively impact the governor’s race.

“People are going to be looking for candidates working hard to bring solutions to the table,” he said. They want people who are going to stand up for them.

“They’re not looking for idle statements,” he said.

Author: Margo Sullivan

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