Free State may head to Granite State
|Title:||Free State may head to Granite State|
Free State may head to Granite State
by Albert McKeon Telegraph Staff email@example.com 10/01/03
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - reasons enough to move to New Hampshire.
Some 20,000 people may do just that should the Granite State top the Free State Project ballot.
The almost 5,500 people who currently belong to this unique movement will learn today if they should uproot for New Hampshire, Wyoming or one of eight other states that somewhat adhere to the Free State way of thinking.
Then the group hopes to quadruple its numbers within two years, move to the chosen state within about five years and start altering its political landscape. Free State members favor states with small governments and societal mindsets that back individual liberty, and many think that makes New Hampshire an odds-on favorite.
"The New Hampshire Guard won't be called in to keep us away from the borders," said Free State member and Keene resident Pat LaPree.
That's almost a certainty. Gov. Craig Benson authorizes National Guard deployments, and he has already supported the movement.
The other choices on the Free State ballot - which members turned in last month - were Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.
The people underneath the group's umbrella espouse a variety of causes, including gun rights, school choice and decriminalization of marijuana. But the umbrella itself has a distinctly libertarian design: less government.
New Hampshire has never embraced the Libertarian Party, but its government seemingly endorses some libertarian principles - possibly because those principles are Republican in nature.
Free State members appreciate the lack of a sales or income tax, and the state motto "Live Free or Die."
"New Hampshire is more on the libertarian side of the Republican Party," said Free State member and Lebanon resident Mike Lorrey. "The Libertarian Party is a failure on the national level; they want strict orthodoxy. We flocked to this because we want to succeed."
Free State members would certainly have a foundation to work with should they choose New Hampshire. But would the 1.26 million residents who already live here accept the Free State Project?
The answer may lie in how the group carries out its mission.
Many Free State members expect to run for state and local government offices, and claim they will work with their neighbors and not against them. If New Hampshire is chosen, they intend to slowly ingrain themselves into the political scene.
"We will take a more pragmatic approach that works within the political system," Lorrey said. "We won't suffer from the high-horse syndrome: 'my way or the highway.'"
Rich Tomasso, a Free State member and Nashua resident, points to how New Hampshire's population increases by about 20,000 a year. An additional 20,000 Free State members over the next seven years will hardly make a dent, he said.
"People understand they have to be a bridge with the community," Tomasso said. "Carpetbaggers tend not to do so well. We will make connections and establish in communities and have local charity involvement. Community is a very big aspect of what the Free State is about."
Some in New Hampshire political circles, such as state Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan, consider the Free State Project nothing more than a fringe group. Nationally, the group has caused consternation as members oppose laws against gambling, marijuana possession and prostitution.
The project, though, will not spend its energies "ranting and raving on issues," Tomasso said. Any movement has its share of radicals and moderates, and the Free State Project won't have 20,000 members supporting the same idea, he said.
"Some people had a less than positive experience with a zoning board or police," Tomasso said. "Others have started a business in a less-than-friendly state for businesses, others want personal freedom. We're all over the map. Some come from a spiritual point of view, and there are a few anarchists who want to live free."
Added Lorrey: "Some people think it's an invasion ... it's a bit laughable. It's like expecting anarchists to organize."
James Maynard may or may not represent the typical Free State member. Maynard, a Keene resident, likes the group's "out-of-the-box thinking," and sees the group complementing and not overturning the New Hampshire way of life if New Hampshire is the chosen state.
Maynard has specific ideas that he thinks would reduce the size and scope of state government, while still providing efficient services to residents. Seeing a state-run charity in Keene recently lay off workers based on employees' residency instead of their performance solidifies his view that the government needs to leave some ventures to private firms, he said.
At the same time, he opposes the criminalization of marijuana possession.
"For a long time in this country, the voices of consistent liberty are drowned out by those who cite liberty only when it is convenient," Maynard said. "For the first time, this group will make sure that the voices of consistent liberty will be heard."
Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832.
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