Derek Dextraze, 33, believes the state government can do more to stop the heroin epidemic. After watching the suffering up close, while his own brother struggles to stay drug free, he decided to run for governor and combat the epidemic from inside the Statehouse.
His main platform calls for legalizing marijuana to capture millions in tax revenues and then using those funds – which he estimates at $70 million — to provide better care for addicts.
“Heroin is the biggest thing going on in our state,” he said. “We don’t have enough rehabs or beds” to deal with the volume of people.
“We need that changed,” he said. “Whoever gets elected will need to work on that.”
To compound the problem, the probation department is not holding up its end, Dextraze said.
“My brother is actually a heroin addict,” he said. “He got in trouble.” Yet his brother’s probation officers repeatedly failed to test him for drugs, he said in a telephone interview this week.
“They didn’t drug test him for seven months,” Dextraze said. “He was high on heroin every time he went and talked to them.”
His brother explained, he took heroin every time he reported to probation on the hunch that might be his last chance to get high.
Finally, the drugs were detected and he was incarcerated.
“When he finally went to jail,” Dextraze said, his brother spent four months getting off heroin. He stayed clean in jail for two additional months, but the week he was released, he overdosed twice. Despite the overdoses, the probation officers again failed to test him for drug use.
“I don’t believe the people running the probation department are doing a good job,” he said. “They want to go home at 5 o’clock” he alleged, and not deal with problems.
Dextraze does not use marijuana but said his brother and many friends do smoke.
Asked about possible hidden costs to legalizing the drug — such as an increase in fatal car accidents reported in places (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington and the cities of Keego Harbor, Mich., and Portland and South Portland, Maine) where marijuana has been legalized — he said he opposes anyone using weed and then operating a car. Otherwise, he does not see much difference between smoking pot and smoking cigarettes.
His campaign website– Derek Dextraze For New Hampshire Governor – Lets Work Together , New Hampshire Governor 2016 — also states he wants to stop animal abuse.
If elected, Dextraze hopes to raise the minimum wage, eventually to $15. He originally considered $12 a more realistic target but has changed his mind after talking to people and hearing Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., discuss the issue.
“It doesn’t seem so far-fetched,” he said, given the fact California and New York have already acted to increase the minimum wage, albeit in stages.
Dextraze, originally from Clermont, Fla., moved to Manchester, N.H., at age 14 with his mother. He had never seen snow until he arrived in the Granite State. He attended Central High in the Queen City before the family moved to Dover to be near his step-father’s son in Wells, Maine. After high school, Dextraze found work at York’s Wild Kingdom in York Beach, Maine as a zookeeper. That job lured him away from college, he said.
Most of the other zookeepers had gone to college to become qualified for the job. Since he already had the work, he figured spending the money on college didn’t make sense. Then he decided to move back to Florida and quit the job. When the Florida plan fell through, he was out of luck because York’s Wild Kingdom had already hired a replacement.
Dextraze took a job at Target, stayed four years but ended up losing that position, he said, because he stood up for his girlfriend, who was involved in a sexual harassment complaint. He and his girlfriend are still together. He described his marital status as single but committed.
He currently is employed with Measured Progress, a school assessment firm.
As of a result of his life experiences, he also would like to see updates to the unemployment system in New Hampshire. For one thing, although he applauds the required Internet class, which shows applicants how to use the system and find jobs, he does not see the point of requiring people to repeat the course every time they lose work.
Dextraze opted to run as a Democrat because he was unable to obtain the signatures needed to declare as non-partisan. He collected quite a few but came up short of the required 3,000. Although he has no political experience, he figures this race is “wide open” because so far, no other candidate has served as a governor. He also likes the path Gary Johnson, now libertarian candidate for president, paved when he was elected New Mexico’s governor.
Johnson had been in business but had no political background. As governor, he started a monthly open door after 4 p.m. policy and invited anyone who wanted to speak to him for five minutes to come by the Statehouse.
Dextraze would institute something similar, he said. He’d also consider an anti-bullying program in the schools. It would be similar to the ongoing Drug Abuse Resistance Education classes.
Honestly, he said, he is not sure about the first actions he would take if he won the election.
“I haven’t thought that far ahead,” he tells NH Journal. “My game plan was to help the people.”
He filed candidate papers in person on June 1.
Dextraze, who is also co-author of the children’s book, The Pumpkin Wizard, knows he has a bit of an uphill battle ahead.
“I have absolutely no money,” he said. “I live paycheck to paycheck” like a lot of working class people.
If he doesn’t win, he will at least have “gotten his name out there” and laid the foundation for another run, perhaps for a lower office, he explained.