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Edgington Bows Out of House Race After NHJournal Reports on Murder Conviction

Republican candidate and convicted murderer Mark Edgington is dropping out of his race for the State House, and he’s blaming NHJournal for his decision.

Edgington, 53, of Westmoreland, was running in the GOP primary in a House race to represent the towns of Hudson and Litchfield, more than an hour’s drive away. Last week, NHJournal reported on his candidacy, including his 1988 murder conviction.

After that report, the New Hampshire Republican Party took the unusual step of invoking a rarely-used rule to endorse Edgington’s two primary opponents, Kimberly Rice and Ralph Boehm.

Now he is leaving the race, and he says it’s all NHJournal’s fault.

“When I embarked on this, I expected fair, respectful treatment by the press and my party, and to serve my constituents,” Edgington wrote to the NH Bulletin. “[The reporting] is causing me mental stress and affecting my family relations … I don’t need this.” 

Edgington did not say what, exactly, he found objectionable in the reporting on his murder conviction. 

Edgington was in a three-way race to fill two seats in the primary. The state GOP invoked the Republican National Committee’s Rule 11, allowing the party to weigh in on a primary race.

“New Hampshire State Party Chairman Chris Ager, National Committeewoman Juliana Bergeron, and National Committeeman Bill O’Brien have filed such written approval with the RNC. Pursuant to that filing, they further state that the approved and supported candidates in the Sept. 10, 2024, state representative Republican primary in the two-seat Hillsborough District 38 (Hudson and Litchfield) are state Rep. Ralph Boehm and former state Rep. Kimberly Rice,” the state GOP said in a statement.

Hudson’s GOP Committee Chair Kimberly Allan, who previously maintained neutrality, endorsed Boehn and Rice after Edgington bowed out.

“We respect Mark’s decision and extend our gratitude for his dedication and efforts during his campaign,” Allan said in a statement.

Contacted Monday, Rice was careful not to be critical in her statement about Edgington.

“I’m happy he chose the communities of Hudson and Litchfield above his personal endeavors. I wish him the best for his future,” Rice told NHJournal.

Boehm was less circumspect when contacted by NHJournal via email.

“Guess he will move back to his real address instead of the three-month rented room,” Boehm wrote.

Edgington was 17 when he strangled motel manager Ballapuran Umakanthan, 37, to death, according to an affidavit filed in the case. Edgington and his accomplice, Carmen Tungate, then 18, planned to beat and rob the motel manager in a Bradenton, Fla. Econo Lodge. When Umakanthan fought back, Tungate held the man down while Edgington strangled him until he saw blood coming out of Umakanthan’s ears, according to the affidavit.

Both Edgington and Tungate were sentenced to 390 years in prison after pleading no contest to second degree murder, and both men were released after about 10 years under a controversial early release program. 

Tungate was killed in a 2009 shooting, a case that’s still considered an unsolved murder. Edgington would go on to meet Ian Bernard, later Ian Freeman, at a Florida community college. The pair moved to New Hampshire as part of the Free State Project and launched Free Talk Live, Freeman’s radio call-in show.

Edgington says he’s retired from Free Talk Live. Freeman is serving a nine-year federal prison sentence for money laundering and wire fraud connected to his Bitcoin exchange businesses. 

Convicted Murderer Wants to Represent Hudson in House, But Address is UPS Box

Free State talk radio host and convicted murderer Mark Edgington, candidate for a House seat representing Hudson and Litchfield, appears to be a recent arrival to the community.

Edgington, 53, is a longtime resident of Westmoreland, a small community outside Keene on the other side of the state. Edgington is a former partner with Free Keene’s Ian Freeman, the jailed Libertarian talk radio host convicted of money laundering and wire fraud.

Years earlier, Edgington spent about eight years in a Florida prison after strangling a man to death.

While he is now registered to vote in Hudson, Edgington’s address on file with the Hudson town clerk’s office is a UPS Store on Lowell Street.

Edgington did not respond to a question about his residency in Hudson. In April on a Hudson Facebook group, Edgington asked the group about a room for rent in either Hudson or Litchfield.

“I am looking for a room to rent in Hudson or Litchfield. I am a 53 yo non drinker and non smoker,” he posted.

Edgington is married with a teen son, a fact he touts as part of his campaign biography. A married father seeking a rented room in a town more than an hour’s drive away is one more curious aspect to Edgington’s candidacy.

Current Rep. Ralph Boehm and former Rep. Kim Rice are also running in the GOP primary in this Republican-leaning district. Campaign professionals say it’s not the type of district where the party would need a candidate to parachute in to fill a vacancy. There are two safe Republican seats and three candidates, including Edgington.

Boehm suspects Edgington’s run is backed by House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R-Auburn.)

“We do not need a convicted murderer running for office in the Republican Party. And I think it is a disgrace that this person is being encouraged by the House Majority Leader,” Boehm told NHJournal.

Osborne did not respond to a request for comment. The lone Democrat running in the district, Luan Baci, also did not respond to a request for comment.

This isn’t the first time a Free State transplant running as a Republican generated bad headlines. Former House candidate Elliot Axelman was charged this year with assaulting a teen girl at the 2022 PorcFest, the Free State Project’s annual gathering. 

Chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party Chris Ager did not weigh in on Edgington’s suitability as a candidate, saying it is up to voters to decide.

“The people of that district have a choice since it is a contested primary and I’m confident they’re going to make the right choice,” Ager said.

Edgington was 17 when he strangled motel manager Ballapuran Umakanthan, 37, to death, according to his affidavit. Edgington and his accomplice, Carmen Tungate, then 18, planned to beat and rod the motel manager in a Bradenton, Fla. Econo Lodge. When Umakanthan fought back, Tungate held the man down while Edgington strangled him until he saw blood coming out if Umakanthan’s ears, according to the affidavit. 

“35 years ago, at 17, I made some bad choices to hang out with the wrong people. The results were catastrophic. It taught me a lot and I am grateful for the lessons, all of the lessons, that have made me the man I am today,” Edgington told NHJournal via email yesterday.

Edgington pleaded no contest to second degree murder and served less than 10 years of his 30 year sentence. Once released, he attended classes at a Florida community college where he met Freemen. The two would move to New Hampshire to be part of the Free State Project and launch the Free Talk Live show.

Freeman ended up excommunicated from the Free State Project when in 2014 he used his radio show to advocate lowering the age of consent for sexual relations.

NH House Candidate Hopes Voters Can Look Past His Murder Conviction

Republican candidate Mark Edgington is a successful entrepreneur, a volunteer firefighter, and a philanthropic volunteer who helped build an orphanage in Africa. 

He’s also a convicted murderer who helped beat and strangle a motel manager to death during a 1989 robbery in Florida.

“35 years ago, at 17, I made some bad choices to hang out with the wrong people. The results were catastrophic. It taught me a lot and I am grateful for the lessons, all of the lessons, that have made me the man I am today,” Edgington told NHJournal via email.

Edgington, one of the original Free State Project pioneers, is now running for a seat in the state House of Representatives as a Republican to represent the towns of Hudson and Litchfield.



According to an affidavit given by Edgington that was filed in court and contemporaneous press accounts, Edgington was 17 and his accomplice, Carmen Tungate, was 18 when they killed Ballapuran Umakanthan, 37, in a Bradenton, Fla. Econo Lodge. 

Umakanthan had recently fired Tungate for stealing from the business, according to the reports. Tungate and Edgington rented a room at the Econo Lodge and allegedly lured Umakanthan into the room with a complaint about a broken air conditioner. 

Umakanthan entered the room, and Tungate hit him in the head with a pipe, according to Edgington’s affidavit. Umakanthan fought back but was soon overpowered. Tungate held Umakanthan down while Edgington strangled him until he saw blood coming out of the man’s ears, according to his affidavit.

Once Umakanthan was dead, Edgington allegedly helped wrap him in a sheet. He and Tungate then fled.

Tungate flew to Virginia after Edgington gave him a ride to the airport, according to the reports. Edgington stayed in Florida and was arrested the day after the murder while attending summer school classes. 

Tungate evaded the law for a year and even got featured on “America’s Most Wanted.” He was arrested in Virginia when he tried to get a fraudulent birth certificate using the name of a child who had just died. 

Tungate and Edgington pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and were sentenced to 30 years in prison. Tungate ended up serving 10 years, and Edgington eight, thanks to a controversial early release program that has since been rescinded. 

As a free man, Tungate would go on to accumulate a criminal record for exposing himself to teen boys. He was shot and killed in 2009 in Florida in what is still an unsolved murder. 

Once free, Edgington got interested in the radio business and in the late 1990s he met fellow broadcasting student Ian Bernard at community college. The pair also shared Libertarian political beliefs. The two would move to New Hampshire where Bernard, who changed his name to Ian Freeman, as part of the Free State Project.

Edgington and Freeman started Free Talk Live, Freeman’s successful Libertarian talk radio show. The two were early adopters of BitCoin and saw their investment pay off. According to a New York Magazine article, the pair drifted apart as Freeman became more involved in cryptocurrency activism. Edgington also became somewhat disillusioned with the Free State Project movement.

“Ian and I have completely different goals on what we want to do with our cryptocurrency,” Edgington told New York Magazine. “I want to create a place that’s actually free, rather than a bunch of recalcitrant, autistic people running around arguing with each other. People have been in New Hampshire for 20 years, and not much has occurred.”

Freeman is now serving a nine year federal prison sentence for wire fraud and money laundering related to his many BitCoin exchanges. 

Edgington retired from Free Talk Live and said he’s no longer involved in the operations, though he does guest host from time to time. Edgington says he is ready to contribute to his adopted state as a Republican.

“Now I am ready to deepen my commitment to my state and Republican values by serving in the State House. As a firefighter and party volunteer, I have been passionate about serving my community for a long time. I want to protect parents’ rights to raise their kids how they see best, reduce taxes, and defend the Second Amendment,” Edgington said.

New Hampshire does not bar people convicted of felonies from serving in the legislature, so long as they have served their full sentence, including any probation and paying court-ordered fines. 

No Bail for Armed, Skateboarding, Manifesto-Writing Anti-Trump Vandal

Lawrence Dunlap won’t be skating this time.

The 37-year-old skateboard-riding Concord realtor had guns and a manifesto in his home when he was arrested for keying 11 cars during the state GOP convention on April 14. A judge has ruled he’s staying in jail for now.

Concord District Court Judge Sarah Christie denied bail for Dunlap on Monday, saying the alarming items police found, as well as evidence about his mental health, are cause for concern about the risk he poses to the community.

Last week, police released a photo of a skateboard-riding figure they believed was responsible for damaging the cars parked outside Concord High School. Once they determined it was Dunlap, they executed a search warrant at his South Spring Street home on Friday, where they found several guns, including an AR-15 rifle. They also found a bag containing latex gloves, flex cuffs, dark clothes, face masks, a billy club, and a medieval-style mace. Raising more red flag was the document described as a suicide note-manifesto Dunlap wrote.

In it, he echoed some of the anti-Donald-Trump sentiment that appeared on his social media accounts.

“I can’t continue to exist for everyone else,” Dunlap wrote. “I truly despise humanity and all the filth we have accepted as acceptable. This world and economy requires personalities like Scott Herzog and Donald Trump. I’m sorry for the pain I know I will cause with this decision. Have me cremated and throw the ashes in the trash.”

In October 2022, the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office announced that Scott Herzog of Norwell, Mass., had been sentenced to a year and a half in prison “for failing to report approximately $1.5 million in income to the Internal Revenue Service.” Herzog owned a landscaping business in the South Shore area.

The full manifesto was not available on Monday.

After Dunlap’s arrest on Friday, NHJournal discovered several anti-Trump messages he had posted, apparently in response to events in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021.

“Y’all (Trump supporters) lost your s–t when [Obama] tried to fix healthcare. Never mind the sheer f—ery Trump has pulled for the last for [sic] years,” Dunlap posted.

In addition to the vandalism of their cars, several of the Republican volunteers also reported having previously received threatening phone calls and letters.

In the case of state Rep. Lorie Ball (R-Salem.), one letter included an image of a gun and a handwritten message urging that someone “blow a f***ing hole in a gun owner’s head today. Save our children from GOP pr*cks.” She reported the message to the police at the time.

Asked about the increase in angry rhetoric and violence targeting Republicans, House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R-Auburn) called it “the predictable and inevitable result of inundating children from an early age with messages of hate for their own country, family, culture, and for themselves.”

Concord Police Detective Evan Cristy writes in his report that Dunlap was identified as the suspect in the vandalism case after a woman walking her dog saw him on the day of the incident.

The woman told police she saw Dunlap get out of a white van and begin photographing the parked cars, Cristy wrote. Police obtained surveillance video of the area and were able to get the van’s license plate number. It came back as being owned by Dunlap.

Cristy went to Dunlap’s home Friday to execute a search warrant. Dunlap was home, but told the detective he would not make any statement and was contacting an attorney. During the search, Dunlap left his home on foot and police issued an alert to “be on the lookout,” as he was considered a danger. He was taken into custody a few hours later.

Cristy writes that Dunlap recently lost his job as a relator and has been suffering depression and suicidal thoughts in the past year, according to comments made by Dunlap’s wife.

Dunlap is charged with 11 felony counts of criminal mischief, as each car he allegedly damaged is estimated to need $1,000 in repairs. Each count carries a three-and-a-half to seven-year prison sentence if convicted. Given that he is charged with felonies, Dunlap’s case will be brought to a grand jury for possible indictments. Grand jury proceedings are secret, though there is typically at least one session a month in superior courts.

Dunlap is currently being held in the Merrimack County Jail’s medical unit due to mental health concerns.

Trump-Hating Realtor With Guns, Manifesto Arrested in GOP Vandalism Incident

A 37-year-old Concord realtor who espoused anti-Trump sentiments online is being held for allegedly keying dozens of cars during the recent state GOP convention as police found a disturbing cache of guns, zip ties, and suicide notes in his apartment.

Lawrence Anthony Dunlap of South Spring Street was arrested and charged Friday with 11 felonies for the incident that took place earlier this month.

The investigation into Dunlap’s connection to the vandalism became intense Friday when Concord Police issued a “be on the lookout” alert for Dunlap over concerns for his safety and the safety of police who might encounter him, according to reporting by Tony Schinella at the Concord Patch.

Dunlap was reportedly seen leaving his home on foot Friday morning. Police report finding guns, a manifesto, suicide notes, and a bag containing zip ties, masks, and gloves.

Dunlap’s social media profiles were largely scrubbed Friday. But some remaining posts indicate an antipathy for former President Donald Trump and Trump’s supporters. In a rambling Facebook post accusing Trump voters of racism and law enforcement of denying the events of Jan. 6, 2021, Dunlap called Trump a dictator before oddly calling for unity.

“Y’all (Trump supporters) lost your s–t when [Obama] tried to fix healthcare. Never mind the sheer f—ery Trump has pulled for the last for [sic] years,” Dunlap posted.

“Then to tell me a dictatorship by Trump is better than the democracy we know. Kinda say [sic] it all now doesn’t it,” Dunlap added. “As long as we elect people who chose to divide [sic] over unify we will never get anything done.”

Dunlap is registered as an unaffiliated voter. He is accused of riding a skateboard around the cars parked for the state GOP convention and keying them as the car owners were inside.

Di Lothrop, a Nashua Republican whose car was damaged during the GOP convention held at Concord High School, is heartened by news of an arrest, but unnerved by Dunlap’s alleged motives.

“Now that is sick,” Lothrop said.

As a Trump campaign volunteer during the primary, Lothrop met a lot of Nashua residents who were not fans of the former president when she knocked on doors. Most were polite, but Lothrop did have an unsettling encounter with one anti-Trump Nashua resident making threats.

“He told me I had three seconds to get off his property or he would drop me,” said Lothrop, who is in her 70s.

The man followed up that threat by getting close to Lothrop and counting, she said.

“It is what it is. People like that are sick. There’s nothing you can really do or say to them to change their minds,” Lothrop said.

“I’m appreciative of the professionalism displayed by the Concord Police,” said state GOP Chairman Chris Ager.

Dunlap is being held on preventative detention and is due in Merrimack Superior Court on Monday. He’s charged with 11 felony counts of criminal mischief.

No Answers in NHGOP Activist’s Slaying

It has been almost two months since GOP activist Alex Talcott was killed in his Durham home, and there are still no answers about what happened.

Talcott, 41, was stabbed in the neck and killed in the early morning hours of Aug. 26. His body was found by police in his garage, and the death is considered a homicide.

Talcott’s violent death made national news as those who knew and worked with him in politics publicly grieved. Former House Speaker William O’Brien, state director of the New Hampshire chapter of the Republican National Lawyers Association, and Chris Ager, current Chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, both eulogized Talcott soon after the death was announced.

“He came to me many times just asking, ‘Hey Chris, how can I help?’ Never asking for anything in return. He was that kind of person. We’re really going to miss him a lot,” Ager said.

But in the weeks that have followed, officials have said nothing about the case. Republicans, particularly in the seacoast area, have filled the void with rumors and speculation, angering friends of Talcott and his family.

“Alex was a friend. He’d been a guest in my home. I’ve run past his house many times,” said former NHGOP state chair Fergus Cullen. “I have emails and text messages and even a voicemail from him on my phone. Something went terribly wrong. We shouldn’t be left to wonder what that was.”

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office told NHJournal the case is still under investigation. Michael Garrity, the spokesman for the state Department of Justice, said there will be a public report about Talcott’s death once the investigation is done, but he could not give a timeline on the investigation or report.

“At this point, the investigation into Mr. Talcott’s death remains active and ongoing, and it includes whether the person who stabbed Mr. Talcott acted in self-defense,” Garrity said.

Police and Garrity have said there is no danger to the community stemming from the case. No arrests have been made, and police know who stabbed Talcott.

Under New Hampshire law, a person may legally claim self-defense when using deadly force if they are faced with an aggressor who reasonably poses a deadly threat to that person or another third party. The state generally does not prosecute cases where self-defense is credibly raised as a possible explanation, avoiding trials in such instances. Whoever stabbed and killed Talcott may never be charged.

Since his death, little has been said publicly about Talcott. Friends and associates contacted by NHJournal have been reluctant to talk. Even information about his funeral and burial arrangements is not known. That is typically published in an obituary, though an internet search did not find one for Talcott. Obituaries are generally written by family members or by a funeral home employee with input from the family.

Talcott lived at the home with his wife, Kristin Talcott, and their three children.  

Kristin and Alex Talcott both graduated from Dartmouth College. Alex Talcott went into corporate law and was the CEO of New Constellation Capital Residential Real Estate and Venture Capital Investing, as well as an adjunct instructor in business law and finance at the University of New Hampshire Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics. 

A long-time GOP activist, Alex Talcott, made an unsuccessful run for state representative in 2022.

Kristin Talcott is a clinical social worker and therapist. 

GOP’s Murphy Arrested After Altercation With Employee at His Manchester Tavern

Republican state Sen. Keith Murphy of Manchester faces charges of simple assault and criminal threatening after a fracas at his eatery, Murphy’s Taproom.

According to Manchester police, Murphy turned himself in Monday on a warrant for the charges stemming from the April incident.

According to Manchester police, Murphy was involved in an argument with an employee at his restaurant. When he filed a complaint with the police, the employee alleged Murphy menacingly used a chair, slapped him, and spat on him. Manchester police officials said the surveillance video they reviewed was consistent with the employee’s report.

Murphy, 47, used his Facebook page to comment on his arrest.

“I am innocent of these charges and look forward to my day in court. When the facts are known, it will be clear that the police have charged the victim in this case. I will be defending my name, reputation, and business through the legal process, and I defer all further questions to my attorney, Donna Brown.”

Murphy added, “The truth will come out in a few weeks. Withhold judgment until that happens.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley called on Murphy to resign if convicted of the charges. But earlier this year, when previously convicted repeat offender Rep. Stacie Laughton (D-Nashua) was behind bars yet again, on stalking charges, Buckley did not demand a resignation until after the House held Organization Day.

Once it was clear Laughton would be unable to add to the party’s numbers in a closely-divided House, Buckley then called for the Democrat to resign.

State Senate President Jeb Bradley expressed his support for Murphy late Monday.

“I want to express my strong support for our colleague Sen. Keith Murphy following news of a workplace dispute with an employee,” Bradley said in a statement. “Sen. Murphy has been a leader in the business community and someone that has demonstrated the highest of character while serving in the Senate.

“Like every American, Sen. Murphy has the right to be presumed innocent, and we all look forward to a speedy resolution of this matter.”

Murphy, a former state representative, was elected to the state Senate in 2022 as a fill-in candidate. Republican Rep. Michael Yakubovich, a two-term state representative from Hooksett, won the primary and immediately dropped out of the general election due to health issues. Party officials named Murphy to be his replacement.

Murphy’s allies insist the employee, not Murphy, was at fault and that when the case is fully investigated, Murphy will be cleared.

Murphy is no stranger to brushes with the law. He told NHJournal last year he could potentially be called as a witness in the Ian Freeman money laundering trial after federal law enforcement agents seized a Bitcoin ATM inside Murphy’s Taproom connected to Freeman’s illegal business.

Freeman was convicted last year on numerous federal felonies related to his multi-million money laundering scheme that helped facilitate online scammers, according to court documents. Freeman is due to be sentenced later this year.

Jan. 6 Convict Plans Another Run for Congress

He’s tan, rested, and ready after serving jail time for his role in the Jan. 6 riots.  Now Granite Stater Jason Riddle is planning another run for Congress.

Riddle, a Cheshire County Republican, plans to challenge Second Congressional District Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton) in 2024. He tried to run in 2022 but couldn’t get his campaign off the ground. He blames a lack of support from the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office and Republicans for his failure to launch — not to mention the fact that he was behind bars.

“Prison life, combined with getting nudged out of the way, led to discouragement and me quitting,” Riddle said.

Now that he is a free man again, Riddle is gearing up for another run. Though he is currently not allowed to leave New Hampshire as part of his probation — including travel to Washington, D.C. —  he is sure he will be able to serve if elected. 

“I’m currently on probation and technically barred from leaving the immediate area, but that will be a mere inconvenient speed bump on my way back to the Capitol,” Riddle said.

The last time Riddle, 34, was at the U.S. Capitol he was part of the violent mob instigated by former President Donald Trump that stormed the building, sending lawmakers into hiding. Riddle did not commit any acts of overt violence, according to court records, though he did steal wine and other items from congressional offices.

Riddle also took numerous selfies and videos during the riot, posted them to social media, gave numerous interviews with television and print publications, and shared his photos and videos with members of the press. He ended up sentenced to three months in jail for taking part in the breach at the Capitol.

Before he was sentenced, Riddle announced his intention to run for Congress against Kuster and again spoke to the media about his plans. During interviews leading up to his nascent candidacy, it became clear Riddle did not know Kuster served in D.C. He indicated he thought she was a state representative who worked in Concord.

Riddle is a former postal worker and a Navy veteran. He was separated from the Navy in 2011 due to alcohol abuse, according to court documents.

Richard Merkt, former chairman of the Cheshire County GOP, was unaware of Riddle’s plan to run in 2024. He said most of the party is currently focused on planning for the next election and working out the right message rather than seeking out potential candidates.

“The focus more for the Republican Party is, now, trying to craft our message for the next election. We’re making sure we have a good response to what our Democratic friends want to do,” Merkt said.

Whoever runs for Congress will need to be someone who can solidify the GOP base while still attracting independents who can swing an election. That candidate will need to be able to address serious issues in a way that resonates with voters.

Though Kuster has been in Congress for 12 years, she is not invincible, Merkt said. She has the advantage of out-of-state fundraising, and she has been fortunate with her opponents, but the right candidate could prevail. Merkt did not address Riddle’s qualifications, instead simply noting there is nothing to stop him from making a run.

“Pretty much anybody who’s not barred by law can run for a nomination,” Merkt said.

The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office confirmed that misdemeanor convictions like Riddle’s one count of theft of government property and one count of illegal parading in a government building do not prohibit someone from seeking office. People are free to run as long as they are not imprisoned or under any probation or supervision.

Riddle expects to be completely done with his probation once it is time to file to run in June of 2024.

NH Dem Party Official Smears Gay Republican as Homophobe

The New Hampshire Democratic Party’s top communications person took to Twitter to smear former GOP state Rep. Tim Baxter as an “anti-LGBTQ, Christian nationalist nut job.”

The problem is that Baxter, who gained national attention running a pro-liberty campaign for U.S. Congress last year, is openly gay.

In response to an NHJournal story about Baxter and fellow 2022 congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt working to win leadership positions in the New Hampshire Young Republicans (NHYR), state Democratic Party communications director Colin Booth tweeted, “Just what every young person wants, to be associated with a bunch of anti-LGBTQ, Christian nationalist nut jobs.”

When confronted with the fact that Baxter is gay Booth doubled down, suggesting the Republican is homophobic.

“Remarkably, gay people are just as capable of supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation and policies as straight people,” Booth tweeted.

Openly gay elected officials denounced Booth’s insulting comments targeting Baxter and questioned why his boss, state party chair Ray Buckley — who is also gay — is defending Booth’s behavior.

Getting attacked by the left because of their sexuality is nothing new for gay Republicans said state Sen. Dan Innis (R-Bradford). Innis was recently called a “self-hater” when he came out as a Republican.

“I just don’t understand if you’re gay you’re suddenly supposed to be a Democrat,” he said.

Baxter said Monday that while he makes no secret of his sexuality, he hasn’t made identity part of his political campaigns, choosing instead to run on his ideas. 

“Unlike Colin, I don’t think you’re a bigot if you don’t subscribe to far-left propaganda on LGBT issues,” Baxter said. “It is sad that I don’t see tolerance and respect for people of differing beliefs from Colin, Ray [Buckley], and the entirety of the NHDP. Thankfully, I do see it from the Republican Party, and the vast majority of the American people.”

Republican voters want to hear about a candidate who will solve the problems they face, not about how that candidate identifies, Baxter said.

“I spoke about my voting record in the legislature, my nonprofit work, and my business experience. Occasionally my sexual orientation came up, but most Republican voters didn’t care because they care about ideas, not identity politics,” Baxter said.

Booth did not respond to a request for comment Monday, nor did representatives from alleged gay rights advocacy organizations like GLAAD, or GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. According to Baxter, he has not reached out to apologize for his smear.

Gay Republicans said they aren’t surprised, comparing it to the ongoing race-based attacks from progressives targeting GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as alleged traitors to their race.

Rep. Joe Alexander (R-Goffstown), another openly gay Republican, said he has experienced intolerance from people on the left when they learn he isn’t in lockstep with their politics because of his sexuality. He was stunned by Booth’s attack on Baxter, and by extension, other gay Republicans.

“I’m struggling to understand why Colin believes the NHYRs are ‘anti-LGBTQ nut jobs,” Alexander said. “Until very recently the chairman of the NHYRs was a member of that community.”

Alexander is the former NHYR chair.

Innis said he and other gay Republicans refuse to become political hostages to a party that does not share their most fundamental beliefs. He also notes the previous Democratic president, Barack Obama, opposed gay marriage when he ran for office.

New Hampshire Republicans, on the other hand, are more than welcoming to members of the LGBTQ community, he said.

“We believe in freedom, liberty, and equality. These are the ideals that made America great,” Innis said. “Tim ran that way. I ran that way too. People in my party supported me in my primary two to one.”

Democrats are too focused on identity politics to understand what voters want, Innis said. People want representatives and leaders who do what is right, and not what is politically correct.

“They’re about identity politics, and Republicans aren’t,” Innis said. “Our politics are about what’s right for the people of New Hampshire and the country. And isn’t that what matters?”

In Divided House, NH Dems Continue Attacks on Popular EFA Program

On Tuesday, House Democrats came within a single vote of approving a bill undermining the state’s Education Freedom Accounts, a sign of their commitment to waging war on the popular school choice program.

Hours earlier, Gov. Chris Sununu released his budget proposal for the biennium, proposing a doubling of EFA funding and expanding the number of eligible families. With polls showing overwhelming support for parental control of education, it’s an issue Republicans are likely to continue to advance.

The expanded EFA funding was part of an education budget proposal to add “an additional $200 million over the next two years — and an additional $1 billion over the next ten years – all with a priority towards school districts that need this aid the most,” Sununu said Tuesday. “These investments, which flow directly to local schools, will help cities and towns lower their property taxes.”

Participation in the EFA program has outstripped original estimates, with more than 3,000 students in the program in just its second year. Democrats say this is a sign the program was poorly designed, and they complain that most parents accessing the funding were already sending their children to private schools.

Their solution — in HB430 and SB141 — is to force parents who want to use EFA funding to send their children to private, parochial or home school must first force them to spend a year at their locally-assigned public school. Even if the student is already thriving in the school chosen by their parents.

As progressive state Sen. Debra Altschiller (D-Stratham) told the state Senate Education Committee last month, while there are some students for whom their public school “may not be the best fit….We can’t know how anything fits without first trying it.”

Using EFA funds “should require families avail themselves of the educational opportunities offered to them first,” Altschiller said. “Before opting out of the public school system, take advantage of the educational opportunities in your community provided to you.”

Rep. David Luneau (D-Concord), prime sponsor of the House bill, is deputy ranking member of the House Education Committee. He echoed Altshiller’s objections.

“Rather than simply transferring state funds when students leave public school, the program is open to students already in private education, who otherwise receive no state funding,” Luneau said in a statement. “This has caused the EFA budget and tax obligation of Granite Staters to quickly skyrocket, as most vouchers awarded have gone to students already in private school.”

The EFA program is already limited to families earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level. This year it will cost $14 million of the total $3.5 billion New Hampshire spends on k-12 education.

Still, Democrats are determined to end it. Even if it means disrupting educational success, critics say.

“Some legislators in the House wanted to force Granite State students to return to institutions that they already have chosen to leave,” said Sarah Scott of Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire. “Besides being highly disruptive to students’ education and traumatizing to students who have encountered bullying or fled ineffective learning environments, it undermines the decisions that parents have already made for their children.”

Altschiller sent her own children to expensive private academies.

During a Senate committee hearing on the bill, parents with children already using alternative education would be pushed back into public schools that had already failed them.

“I have a 5-year-old who started home school this year — does she need to go to second grade for a year, and then come out again, so we can take advantage of the funds?” asked James Van Nest of Dorchester, N.H. “My son hasn’t finished a full year of public school. Does he now need to re-enter the school system and then can we use the funds once we take him out?”

Despite the potentially drastic impact of the bill, every Democrat in the House except one — Philip Jones of Keene — voted for it on Tuesday, and every Democrat in the state Senate is a cosponsor, a sign of the depth of their opposition. The House vote came just days after an NHJournal poll found overwhelming bipartisan support for parental rights in decisions regarding the education of their children.

The vote was so close, Speaker Sherman Packard had to take the unusual move of casting a vote from the chair to create a 185-185 tie, preventing it from being sent on to the House Finance Committee. In a subsequent vote, the Democrats’ plan was tabled 186-183.

“It is disappointing that Republicans voted to the unsustainable giveaway to current private school students today, but House Democrats will continue fighting to establish appropriate guardrails in the EFA program,” Luneau said.

“For Democrats, kids are nothing more than ‘school funding units,” responded Rep. Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro), also a member of the Education Committee. “We believe they are children who deserve the best education that meets their needs – as determined by their parents.”