By Melissa Proulx, Staff Writer
When it comes to legislative success, Democratic Sen. Martha Fuller Clark has a long list of supporting evidence.
“I’ve worked on lots of womens’ issues, on health care issues, on environmental issues, on education issues,” the senator said during an interview with staff members from The New Hampshire on Tuesday, Oct. 28. “I’m very proud of my record.”
Currently up for re-election after her first term as state senator for District 21, which consists of the towns of Durham, Lee, Madbury, Newfields, Newington, Newmarket and Portsmouth, Fuller Clark has been working in the state government since 1990, when she was first elected into the New Hampshire House of Representatives after her predecessor asked her to run.
“It meets that prerogative that you always hear about that women never run for office until they’re asked,” Fuller Clark said. “I was intrigued, and I thought that I could make a difference.”
But after 12 years of service and a little time off, Fuller Clark came back in 2004 when she made the switch to the Senate after being elected to represent District 24, which consists of the towns of Greenland, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Kensington, New Castle, North Hampton, Newton, Rye, Seabrook, Stratham and South Hampton. She held this position until 2010, taking another quick break before winning the District 21 Senate seat in 2012 with an impressive 11,066-point lead over her Republican opponent, Peter MacDonald.
During these decades of service, Fuller Clark has been able to push controversial and important legislation. While in the House in 1999, she sponsored House Bill 90 that repealed a law that barred homosexual couples in the state from adopting children, which she believed was a “heinous” law. She was also a leader in helping pass the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, as well as getting the state’s conservation heritage plate created.
Just in this past session, Fuller Clark and her team of legislative sponsors were able to pass Senate Bill 141, which established the Granite State Farm to Plate program, a broad law that allows farmers to sell their products more directly to consumers and leaves room for future legislation to help further benefit them economically.
It is this experience that she believes sets her apart from Phil Nazzaro, the Republican candidate vying for her seat.
“Your effectiveness builds over time as you come to know who to respect and who to work with,” Fuller Clark said. “So when we continue to face a really difficult decision — challenges for the state going forward and we’re going to have to reorder our priorities in some ways to be able to meet some of the funding needs — I think it makes sense to send someone back to Concord who has earned the respect of her colleagues across the aisle and has a demonstrated record of success.”
Nazzaro, a former town councilmen for the town of Newmarket, told The New Hampshire during an editorial board interview on Thursday, Oct. 16, that he plans on running as an independent candidate due to his varying liberal and conservative beliefs.
This, however, could pose a challenge for him if he is elected come Tuesday, Nov. 4, according to Fuller Clark.
“He talks about how he’s going to do what’s best for his community and the citizenry in that community, but many of his positions or the areas that he feels strongly about are really not embraced by the Republican Party,” she said. “I think he would have an enormous challenge in being able to achieve some of his goals and objectives.”
If elected, Fuller Clark plans to continue the work that she is doing, centered around the issues of sustainable water infrastructure, public transportation, student debt and the cost of higher education, creating a minimum wage conducive of living wage and an emerging problem that she feels needs to be more adequately understood.
“The other concern that I think we see right now which is harder to address, but it’s this emerging crisis around the use of drugs and heroin and cocaine,” said Fuller Clark, who recently attended a symposium about what local communities could do to address the issue.
“I do think we need to have stronger programs at a state level than we have right now to provide more preventive support and more rehabilitation and not end up treating these kinds of addictions criminally, but medically,” she said.
But regardless of who wins, Fuller Clark said one thing that remains the most important this election is that students and other voters in the state take advantage of this fundamental right.
“No matter who you vote for, it’s absolutely critical that you vote,” Fuller Clark said. “If you don’t come out and vote, then you don’t have a voice. You give up that voice; we need that voice.”