Marjorie Smith, Self-Described Policy Wonk, Eyes a Return to NH House

Max Scheinblum, Executive Editor

DURHAM – Lucky for Marjorie Smith, she knew exactly what she wanted to be at a young age. Her first political speech was when she was 11, and her passion for government led to a graduate degree in public administration from Syracuse University. 

Now, she finds herself on the ballot for the 13th time as she again vies to represent Strafford County’s 10th district in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Since first being elected in 1996, the Brooklyn native has chaired both the House Finance and Fiscal Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. She has also taken up a leadership role within her own party, currently serving as the chair of public policy for the New Hampshire House Democratic caucus.

Before her life in Concord, Smith was the national executive director of Women’s Action for New Directions, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing women’s involvement in elective office. She also worked for former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson’s administrations and chaired the Maryland Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights while living in Baltimore, Maryland.

Here is where she stands on some of the key issues of 2022’s midterm election.


“I think that it’s a complicated issue because there are many people who get caught up in drugs sometimes having started with marijuana, but not always, certainly,” she said. “Having said that, I think marijuana should be decriminalized both state and nationally, and I think recreational marijuana should be available in New Hampshire as it is in all our surrounding states.”


“It takes two to tango, and I am continually surprised that this is viewed as a woman’s exclusive issue since, except in very certain circumstances, men are intimately and crucially involved,” she said. “The first principle is that a woman must have the right to control her own body. How those decisions are made belongs to the woman and the people she chooses to involve. One would expect that to be her medical adviser but also her partner if she so chooses.”

Smith strongly disagrees with, and voted against, New Hampshire’s current 24-week abortion ban, citing “shockingly restrictive language” rather than the cut-off date itself. 

“We were able last year to get the fetal fatal anomaly [exception] addressed, but it still leaves highly restrictive language which is not the role of the legislature,” she said. “I’ve had two babies. I’ve never been in a gynecologist’s or obstetrician’s office where there was room for 424 legislators.”


“I believe that the state has an obligation to fund public higher education at a level dramatically higher than it’s now being funded. And when we were in the majority, and we were able to control a budget, we did that. But since then the money has been cut back,” Smith said. “I think it’s unconscionable that we don’t support public education in this state from pre-k through university at a level that removes all the economic disincentives and limits the people who are able to have access to public education.”

The budgetary concerns Smith alluded to have resulted in New Hampshire ranking last in the country in state education funding.

“I think we’re in very bad shape. I take no pride in where we are in the list of how well the state funds higher education,” she said. “I take no pride in where we are in terms of how the state funds education from pre-K through high school, and that also would include vocational training. Because I don’t believe that a college university education is the only route that students should be expected to pursue.”

Smith also denounced the state’s recent ban on discussions on “divisive concepts.” Though this exact wording is not present in the final version of House Bill 2, the bill still prohibits conversations around race and class.

“To deny who we are and how we got here is to deny to each and every young person going through schools the right to put themselves in context in this country,” said Smith. “If you don’t acknowledge slavery, if you don’t knowledge discrimination against certain groups, how can you possibly put in place the inequities that exist now? Countries’ philosophies that want to deny their citizens knowledge have historically been authoritarian dictatorships that want to rewrite history. I always thought this nation was above that.”

Inflation, Housing and Cost of Living

“The [inflation] problem is national and the power to address national problems, by and large, rests on the national level. However, there are a lot of things that we can do. We do know that despite all the discussion about recession – record numbers of new jobs are still being created nationally,” she said. “We know that there are many employers, not just McDonald’s, but others in New Hampshire who would like to find qualified applicants. All that should help, but also we have to address the issue of affordable housing. We’re an aging state for myriad reasons. We need to keep in the state the wonderful young men and women who have invested in their education here. We can’t do that without affordable housing and available housing and the state could do that without regard to the federal government.”

Smith offered a few potential solutions to this.

“I would address the discrimination that is expressed in certain zoning laws in the state. I would provide incentives for businesses who are willing to invest in and build affordable housing. I would educate planning departments about the value that’s inherent in having a diverse age population in the state. All that the state can do,” she said. “I would also consider the possibility of providing tax incentives to businesses who employ young people and perhaps who helped those young people meet their school tuition responsibilities.”

She also expressed interest in raising the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $15, but said that that isn’t the end goal.

 “Over the years, I sponsored legislation that passed that separated us from the federal minimum and was thrilled about that, and then lo and behold, a subsequent legislature returned us to the federal minimum which is unconscionable, shocking,” Smith said. “I don’t think $15 is a livable wage. It’s a minimum wage, but not a livable wage, and I would philosophically support a livable wage rather than a minimum wage. But a journey of 1000 miles begins with one step. And I think that those people who take a position of my way or the highway on a liveable wage are perhaps making themselves feel good, but doing not much good for the people who are forced to work at the lowest possible wage.”

Climate Change

“First of all, I don’t refer to it as climate change. I refer to it as the climate crisis. I think to say “climate change” is to sweeten the pot in a way that’s not appropriate,” Smith said. “In terms of access to alternative energy sources, I support the development of new ideas in energy sources. All that, I think, is incredibly important. I just came back from a fascinating trip to Block Island to see five power sources just off Block Island. In the United States, we only have seven towers that are in the water that are off land in the entire United States. And yet we could go from Rhode Island up to Maine, right up along the east coast and put these offshore wind-powered sources along it and make an incredible difference. That’s just one example.”

Gun Control

Smith “strongly, strongly opposed” the passage of House Bill 1178, a 2022 provision enacted by Gov. Sununu that exempts state and local law enforcement from enforcing federal firearms law. 

“I worked very hard in opposition to that, and I am the prime sponsor of the bill for the next session for background checks,” she said. “Reasonable gun owners have no problem with this.”

She recalled a recent conversation with her son, a gun owner and hunter.

“He’s training his new dog, who’s a retriever, to go hunting with him,” she said. “The dog had two months of training and then passed the test to be able to go out, and as [my son] Douglas says, ‘And the dog never even gets to pull the trigger.’ So the damage we are doing under that legislation is mind-boggling.”

For students looking for more information on how to vote in the upcoming election on Nov. 8, 603 Forward offers information on their website. Students can also access more information on how to vote by checking out the University of New Hampshire Voting page.

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