Seacoast Current invited the Democrats and Republican candidates in the First Congressional District, U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races for a "live to tape" unedited interview lasting 10-15 minutes with Dan Alexander and SNHU Civic Scholar and founder of NH Political Capital Dean Spiliotes. Gov. Chris Sununu's campaign staff could not agree on a date. Don Bolduc's campaign did not respond to several invitations.

Democrat Dr. Tom Sherman cleared up two misconceptions about himself during his sitdown with Seacoast Current: he would not raise taxes, and would not mandate COVID-19 vaccinations.

During their debate at New England College, the governor suggested that Sherman's plans for increased education funding and rental housing assistance would require an increase in taxes to fund.

"Let me be really crystal clear about where I am right now, and where I have been consistently. I would veto an income tax. I would veto a sales tax. I've never voted for an income tax or a sales tax, but I've been a fierce defender of trying to provide property tax relief," Sherman said. He said Sununu's claim of lowering property taxes is false because those rates are not set by the governor.

Property tax bills have gone up 15% on average statewide, or an increase of $1.7 billion dollars, during his term.

Sherman's $35 million housing plan also represents an investment in business. Employers that want to add shifts but can't because there's no place for them would benefit, according to an example cited by Sherman.

"If they start being able to house those workers, if they start being able to build out that third shift, that's more revenue for the state. That business is being as productive as they know they can be. That's an investment because the return on investment is that we are seeing businesses able to get stronger, able to find that workforce that they need," Sherman said.

He also would like to see a tax break for businesses that provide or help employees with child care because it allows workers come to back to work and their employers to maximize their productivity.

Sherman says it is different from Sununu's plan, which he believes favors the wealthy and out-of-state corporations.

"All of these are areas where the governor's philosophy is 'I'm only only going to use federal money. I'm going to create a great big surplus. I'm going to give some of that money to mostly large out of state corporations while everybody's property taxes are going up. I'm going to cut taxes for the wealthy, which is the interest in dividends tax," Sherman said.

State Sen. Tom Sherman at the January Booster Blitz in Concord
State Sen. Tom Sherman at the January Booster Blitz in Concord (State Sen. Tom Sherman)

Doctors Should Decide About COVID-19 Vaccinations for Kids

Sherman, who is a gastroenterologist at Exeter Hospital, said that he believes in the COVID-19 vaccine and its ability to decrease the symptoms and the likelihood that someone will be symptomatic. He is also in agreement with Sununu that businesses should have the right to determine the vaccination policy for their customers and employees.

They part company on New Hampshire Department of Education and Commissioner Frank Edelblut's statement that the state will not follow the recommendation that the COVID-19 vaccination be added to the list of required vaccinations to attend public school.

"The Department of Education Commissioner is exactly the wrong person to make any decision on this. He has zero qualifications to do that. The Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner has a process to determine what are the recommended vaccines for schools, and that is the way I think we should proceed," Sherman said, adding the he knows of no plans to adjust the state's vaccination list.

Sherman said that equating abortion and a woman's right to choose to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations is inappropriate.

"People have a right to decide whether or not they're going to get vaccinated. Women should have a right to decide whether or not they're going to have an abortion. And both of them typically work with their doctor. I think it's an incredibly consistent stance on my part," Sherman said.

Tom Sherman lawn sign
Tom Sherman lawn sign (Eric Klemarczyk)

Codifying Abortion Rights

Sherman credited resident Lisa Akey for changes made to an abortion law signed by Sununu as part of his budget that required an ultrasound and made no exceptions except for the life of the mother. The governor said he couldn't risk other parts of the budget with a veto.

Akey was faced with the prospect of one of her twins not surviving outside the womb and the other other's life in danger. She tried contacting Sununu about her her concerns, but he never responded, so she tried legislators from both sides of the aisle, according to Sherman.

"So we got together. I actually went and visited her in the hospital. She still didn't hear from the governor. And when she came and testified, she was able to get some Republicans to join Democrats to make sure that that exception for fatal fetal anomaly was made real. And that's also how we got the ultrasound requirement modified," Sherman said.

Sherman credited Sununu for making changes to the state abortion law, but said it's far from perfect as there are no exceptions for rape or incest and doctors are still criminalized. During a symposium at Dartmouth Hospital, Sherman said it was brought up that this provision will make recruiting doctors difficult.

State Sen. Tom Sherman and his family
State Sen. Tom Sherman and his family (Dr. Tom Sherman)

Food or Fuel

The challenger said Sununu has rejected efforts from both Democrats and Republicans to expand capacity for alternative and renewable energies like hydro, solar, and off-shore wind that could help control energy costs this winter.

Sherman said he would lift caps on renewable energy sources like solar that would allow companies to generate five megawatts and go off the grid for their power needs. He would also strengthen the New Hampshire Saves weatherization and efficiency program. It is those types of programs that will offer help in time for this winter, according to Sherman.

In the more immediate future, the first step to help this winter is HB 2023, which Sherman supported and Sununu signed. It creates an emergency fuel assistance program and a supplemental electric benefit using surplus funds from the state budget. The bill also makes an appropriation to the Department of Energy for the electric low-income program fund.

"I would also expedite offshore wind. Rhode Island is already taking advantage of their offshore wind program that Governor vetoed. The way we do that...the most useful tool is procurement. And so we we need to move that forward," Sherman said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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