HAMPTON — Selectman Regina Barnes says after six years on the board she has finally found “her voice” and that is why she is seeking a third term in the March 8 election.
The outgoing coach said she could not be controlled, had no conflict of interest and his No.1 goal remained to make Hampton “sustainable”.
“The way we’re going, it’s not sustainable,” she said.
But it’s that same voice – which has come under fire for holding up pro-Trump signs in downtown Hampton that have stopped local businesses from sharing social media posts that some have deemed racist and offensive – that prompted Amy Hansen to enter the race.
Hansen said she was running to steer the city away from those controversies and bring renewed attention to Hampton-centric issues.
“At Hampton meetings, I feel like we should be talking about Hampton,” Hansen said.
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Keeping Hampton Affordable
Barnes said making Hampton sustainable means keeping it affordable while maintaining the services taxpayers have come to expect.
The former auditor/accountant said one way to do that was to advocate for more funds from NH State, which over the years has cut pension costs to reduce room and board revenue that the city receives.
“Most of our problems at Hampton are related to how Concord works,” Barnes said.
Barnes has been outspoken that the state should help pay for municipal services, like police and fire, that Hampton provides at Hampton Beach State Park.
She was one of the selectors who voted in 2018 to sue the state over beach fees, but was later removed, with selector Jim Waddell calling it unwinnable.
“It’s time we started seeking compensation from NH State,” Barnes said. “I don’t want to hear that they have no money. That’s a lie. They have a lot of annual income. All they have to do is redirect some of it to the municipalities.”
Barnes also wants to reduce waste and recycling costs in the city budget, which approach $2 million a year.
While residents only have one cart for trash and one for recycling, Barnes said there are a number of condos and businesses that take out more than 10 trash/recycling carts per week. She wants to see the board impose user fees on properties with more than 10 carts.
“That way we can at least maybe cover our expenses, so that they don’t all hit the tax rate in the budget,” Barnes said.
Other issues she wants to focus on include increasing tax exemptions for the elderly to help more seniors stay in their homes.
Barnes received support from former coach Mary-Louise Woolsey, the candidate she beat in 2016, as well as the endorsement of rational Hampton ratepayers.
Investing in Hampton’s Future
Hansena mother of three who works at Hampton Academy as a secretary, said the city needs to focus on investing in its people and its future.
She said her priorities include public safety, good schools and promoting long-overdue infrastructure projects like repairing roads and sidewalks.
“We’ve really neglected infrastructure in our community,” Hansen said.
She also wants to ensure that municipal services are properly staffed and remunerated.
“It’s important to me that we not only focus on the people who live here, meaning roads, schools and municipal services, but also on the people who work here,” Hansen said.
“I think we’re on our third home inspector in the last 18 months, and I know the most recent went to Stratham because he could make more money,” she said.
Hansen admits that these investments come at a cost.
“We can no longer just focus on keeping the tax rate flat,” Hansen said. “It’s not popular and probably not appealing to me to say this, but it’s honest. We need to focus on keeping our city relevant and at the same time competitive with other communities.”
Candidates differ on city budget, use of voting machines
Both Barnes and Hansen back major infrastructure projects in the March 8 ballot, including the $7 million High Street rebuild and $15.7 million sewage treatment plant upgrades.
‘Misbehavior’ :Hampton to vote on $7 million project to fix one of city’s worst roads
The two, however, differ on the city’s proposed operating budget of $30,206,241. Barnes said she was against the budget, saying there was a lot of money in the default budget, which was $22,047 less.
She voted against the budget because it includes a 6% raise for the tax collector and city clerk (she thinks wage increases for non-union workers should come before voters, like union contracts in an article by separate mandate). She also said the city continues to have large surpluses at the end of the year.
“There’s a lot of money in the default budget,” Barnes said.
The two are also at odds over the citizens’ petition to eliminate ballot counting machines in Hampton.
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Barnes, who presented the petition, said it was about restoring the integrity of the voting process.
Hansen said it was nothing more than a ploy to sow doubt in the election process.
“I think this is a nationwide campaign to undermine the election,” said Hansen, who said she found it insulting to the city moderator and election officials. “There is no doubt that (the machines) are safe.”
Is Barnes a distraction?
Hansen announced her candidacy in front of Barnes at the November 15 selectors’ meeting, saying she “can no longer remain silent about the divisiveness and offensive behavior that is represented in our community.”
And although she never named Barnes, it was obvious she was talking about herself.
“I almost feel like she’s capable of attracting negative press on her own,” Hansen said of why she didn’t name Barnes. “I don’t need to contribute to it because I feel like I’m racing for Hampton. I’m not racing against Regina.”
Hansen called Barnes a distraction from the important issues facing the city.
“I don’t want the argument to be Regina versus Amy,” Hansen said. “I think the voter can decide that, but I would prefer to have no comment on their views or their behavior other than I find it distracting and frustrating.”
Barnes had come under fire for her controversial political remarks made on social media, including when she shared a Tweet about the COVID-19 mandates of U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asking, “What next?
She replied: “Gas chambers”, prompting a statement from the Anti-Defamation League New England which called for an “immediate apology”.
She was also pressured by Black Lives Matter Seacoast to quit after she shared a meme that read, “If you can pretend Bruce Jenner is female and Kamala Harris is black, then you can definitely pretend I’m wearing a mask.”
The statement led her board colleague to vote 3 to 2 of no confidence in her in December 2020.
Barnes: I’m not racist
Barnes said she has been called everything from anti-Semitic to racist – which she says is a lie and slander. The claims stemmed from social media memes she shared on her own personal social media pages regarding COVID-19 restrictions and what she considered the state’s overreach.
She said she felt like she was under attack because of her politics, running as a Republican in her failed Senate bid and also being a Trump supporter.
The other board members who once supported her, she said, have turned their backs on her because she no longer votes the way they want.
“44 years have passed and until last year I was never called a racist,” Barnes said. “People call me divisive and I think that’s just because I bring up things that no one else wants to bring up. I watch over the taxpayer.”
She said if people had a question about what she had said in the past, they should call her.