(Photo Credit: Michael Moore / Sentinel Staff)
Don Bolduc may not be from Cheshire County — but he says he’s been listening to Cheshire County voters.
A retired Army brigadier general and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Bolduc made a pair of campaign stops locally on Wednesday, first at Highlander Arms in Spofford and later at a Keene house party. Bolduc is a Laconia native who currently lives in Stratham.
At Highlander Arms, Bolduc addressed a crowd of at least three dozen people as he spoke on issues that are key for many Republican voters, stating his commitment to supporting the Second Amendment, school choice, freedom of religion and more.
But he also said he knows there are issues of particular importance in the southwestern corner of the state. One of them, he said, is the need to enhance Internet access and cellphone service, saying it’s not just a matter of getting online, but it’s also a matter of public safety.
“I hear horror stories about people who fall in the ice and someone with them can’t call [for help]: swimming accidents, motorcycle accidents, snowmobile accidents. It’s a public safety issue, and there’s solutions out there. I’ve heard them, I’ve listened to them, and I want to power them to be able to put it together,” he said. “That’s going to create jobs in the state and educational opportunities in our high schools and in our colleges.”
In addition, he noted that local voters are concerned with supporting services for those struggling with mental health, addiction and homelessness.
He also said he’s heard from locals who say they care greatly about education. He said he feels it’s time to put teachers back in charge of the classroom.
“I think there’s too many federal regulations that come out of the Department of Education that are levied on the state and get in the way of teachers actually teaching in the classroom,” he said. He also said it’s important to have a curriculum that “teaches truth, teaches literacy and gives our students options.”
Bolduc also touched on a topic that has become heavily politicized in recent weeks — the wearing of face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Spofford event, which was held outdoors, only a couple of people had masks on. And while Bolduc said he doesn’t encourage people not to wear them, he does encourage people to do what makes them feel comfortable, saying they shouldn’t be shamed for that decision.
Gun rights were a central part of the conversation, especially given the event’s setting at a firearms store. Rep. John Burt, a Goffstown Republican who represents Hillsborough House District 39 and is a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, said it was Bolduc’s understanding of the amendment that earned his support.
“He said, ‘John, I have been around the world; I have seen first-hand what a tyrannical government can do to its own citizens’,” Burt recalled to the audience.
Bolduc completed 10 tours of duty and spent more than 80 months in combat during his 33-year military career. He spent 66 of those months in Afghanistan and retired from the Army in 2017.
Rob Hodgkins, owner of Highlander Arms, said he met Bolduc in Afghanistan in 2004 or 2005 when Hodgkins worked as a contractor for the CIA. Hodgkins commended the grassroots nature of Bolduc’s campaign, saying he’s the sort of candidate who will “clean things up” in Washington, D.C.
In the Republican primary on Sept. 8, Bolduc will have three opponents: Gerard Beloin of Colebrook, Andy Martin of Manchester and Bryant “Corky” Messner of Wolfeboro. Democrats running for the Senate seat are incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of Madbury, Tom Alciere of Hudson and Paul Krautmann of Keene. Candidates who have filed declarations of intent to appear on the Nov. 3 general-election ballot as third-party candidates are Justin O’Donnell of Nashua and Thomas Sharpe V of Salem.