Congressman Frank Guinta recently said in an interview with NH Journal he is running again because he feels “very strongly about focusing and fixing critical problems for New Hampshire” and the country.
Among the most pressing problems, he listed the national debt and the deficit as well as lack of access to good paying jobs. As he listens to the voters, he hears they’re worried about jobs –for themselves and for family members.
“New Hampshire needs someone passionate about local issues,” he said,
Guinta ranked the heroin epidemic as a top priority. He also cited the collapse of the fishing industry, sinking due to over regulation.
From 100 boats, the fleet is down to 10, he said.
Finally, he mentioned the Environmental Protection Agency’s multi-million dollar mandates impacting Great Bay communities (such as Exeter, Stratham and Newfields). The federal agency has tasked these towns with cleaning up pollution in the estuary.
Heroin and opioids have cost New Hampshire 430 lives, he said. To put the numbers in perspective, the drugs have claimed one in every 3,000 residents.
“It’s not just an epidemic in New Hampshire,” he said. “It’s national” — but a crisis that happened almost overnight.
Guinta teamed up with Granite State 2nd District Rep. Ann Kuster and started the Bi-Partisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic.
In 2015, they introduced the STOP ABUSE Act.
That bill had two basic components, Guinta explained. The first dealt with the health care issue and endeavored to use drug courts to redirect addicts to treatment. According to the statistics, given 18 months of treatment, most addicts (more than 60 percent) will be successfully rehabilitated and at a cost of only $8,000 per patient. By contrast, only 20 percent will be rehabilitated if given jail time, and the incarceration costs taxpayers $30,000 per person.
“It’s very clear to me,” he said, “if we want to help somebody,” the best course is the one that restores control of their own lives.
The bill’s second part addressed law enforcement. Drug dealers should face the full force of the law, he said, and Congress is working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency on efforts to put them in jail. Also, Guinta stated, prescription management systems are antiquated and need to be improved. As it stands, there’s too much doctor shopping possible. Anyone can obtain an opioid prescription in Plaistow, N.H., and walk it across the border to sell for heroin in Methuen, Mass., for example.
Much of STOP ABUSE, he predicted, will become part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which passed the Senate 94-1 in March, but without funding and is now back in the House.
The Task Force presented 15 bills in April. The CARA Act is becoming the vehicle, and Guinta expects “components of bills I sponsored and co-sponsored to be rolled into it” and be on the President’s desk by the end of the summer.
Guinta hears people’s frustration with the impasse in Washington but pointed out partisanship has always been and always will be part of politics. Nonetheless, Congress has come together over important people issues like the heroin crisis and veterans care.
“There has been a lot of bi-partisan work” being done on these issues to put people ahead of politics, he said.
For other examples of his efforts to work with Democrats, he pointed to his service on the House Budget Committee and Financial Services Committee, which has passed more bills out of committee with bi-partisan support than any other House committee.
He is not only that passionate voice for New Hampshire but also “a passionate voice that gets things accomplished.” As a state representative, city alderman, and mayor, he’s explains he has shown results.
“We cut borrowing, cut taxes and cut crime,’ he said, summing up his work as mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire’s biggest city. In Congress, he’s standing for principles and also working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
Guinta is also running because he is personally committed to public service, he said. New Hampshire’s a small state, and public service is “inherently important” to people here, he said.
“I run a campaign totally directed to my constituents,” he said. In 2014, a year that’s been described as favorable to Republican candidates, he was the only Granite State Republican elected to Congress. (Incumbent Democrats Kuster and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen beat back their Republican challengers.) Guinta says he won because he appealed to Democrats and Independents and because he demonstrated leadership, adding that he’s not relying on anyone’s coattails in this election.
Top of the Ticket
Looking at Donald Trump as the likely Republican presidential candidate, Guinta said “this year all the rules about politics are out the window” and that’s the case for both Democrats and Republicans.
He sees the top of the ticket as a likely neutral factor in his race.
“I’m not going to rely on anyone for votes nor feel I’m hindered,” he said. “When you are running, you have to talk directly to constituents” and deal with the record – “what you’ve done on their behalf and how you’ve listened to them.” Most important, he said, “you have to speak for yourself.”
His district is considered one of the most closely watched in the nation, he allowed, but that’s because the voter registration is equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. It’s viewed as a bellwether.
Guinta talks about his two children, Colby and Jack, ages 12 and 11, “all the time,” he said and feels “blessed to have two great, happy healthy kids.” Although many people may know he attends their sports events, some may not know Guinta has been active himself, particularly when it comes to hitting the slopes.
“I’m a skier for almost 40 years,” he said. Although he works six days a week, Sunday is family time, and the whole clan likes to get away for a hike up one of New Hampshire’s mountains.
Editor’s Note: This is part of NH Journal’s continuing series of interviews with congressional candidates in the 1st District. NH Journal has already spoken with Rich Ashooh, Shawn O’Connor, and Pam Tucker (Tucker recently exited the race). An interview with Carol Shea-Porter is coming soon.