By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BARNSTEAD — Two women are seeking the Republican nomination for a seat from this community in the state legislature in Belknap County District 7.
The contest pits Barbara Comtois, the wife of current District 7 Rep. Guy Comtois, against Elaine Swinford, welfare director for Barnstead, who has served two terms in the legislature and is the former chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
Both women favor so-called Constitutional Carry legislation, which would repeal the requirement for gun owners to obtain a permit for carrying a concealed handgun. The bill passed in the current legislative session, but was vetoed by Gov. Maggie Hassan.
Comtois, who grew up in Pelham, moved to Barnstead in 1998, and with her husband started Sticks and Stones Farm, which practices the hydroponic growing of fruits and vegetables and offers pasture-raised meats as well as a community supported agriculture program.
She graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in accounting, having worked her way through college, and admits that she had never farmed or planted a garden until the move to Barnstead.
"I learned it all through research," said Comtois, who home-schooled her two sons, both of whom work with their parents at the farm.
Comtois said she was able to find a lot of resources available to her sons during their home schooling, including the SEE Science Center, the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, and the Civil Air Patrol program in the Seacoast area. She said she favors school choices for parents and state funding for charter schools but doesn't want to financial aid for home schoolers, maintaining that government aid would bring government controls.
She said the state's opioid crisis is not really a new problem and that there is a tendency "to throw money at it because it is a crisis. What we have to do is look at what's causing this crisis."
Comtois cites the example of Portugal, where drugs were legalized in 2001 and deaths from drug overdoses have plummeted to the lowest level in Europe, noting that research shows that their research shows only certain people become addicted and that there is a direct link to drug addiction and the state of the economy.
She said the county needs to look to attracting new businesses and needs more skilled workers and that there needs to be an emphasis on making more vocational programs available at the high school level.
Swinford, who holds a master's degree in mental health from Springfield College, agrees that education system changes are needed and said she would like to see trade schools at the junior and high school levels.
"I would like to see more home ec and shop classes for anyone who wants it," she said, adding that she is opposed to Common Core and would like to see more basic education in math and writing skills. "Third-graders should know how to count without using a calculator and they should know how to write."
She said she would also like to see welfare reforms that would require those receiving benefits to work at projects like sweeping the sidewalks. "I don't think we should be giving handouts. But I'm all in on helping somebody with a hand up."
Swinford, who formerly lived in Laconia, moved to Barnstead 15 years ago and said that what she saw as welfare director led to her decision to open the thrift shop and community pantry in Barnstead because she saw the need for them.
She said she teaches cooking skills to families using the community pantry so that they know how to cook good meals using basic ingredients.
Swinford, who is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, said she would like to serve again on Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which she chaired for two years.
She says that the committee is the third most powerful in the House and she enjoyed being a part of it.
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