New Hampshire Senate president Sylvia Larsen has appointed Abigail Abrash Walton, faculty member at Antioch University New England in the Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program, to serve on the state’s newly established Public Funding of Elections Commission.
As a commissioner, Abrash Walton and her six fellow commissioners will develop recommendations for how voluntary public funding of elections could work in New Hampshire. They will focus on public financing of campaigns for the state offices of governor, executive council and senate through means that are not reliant on the state’s general fund. The commission must submit recommendations to the New Hampshire legislature by the end of this December.
The New Hampshire legislature established the Public Funding of Elections Commission through its passage of HB 794. The New Hampshire House passed this legislation in January and the Senate in late March. Many call HB 794 the “Granny D” law due to the support of long-time campaign reform advocate and Dublin, New Hampshire, resident Doris “Granny D” Haddock. Joining Abrash Walton on the commission will be former state senator Jim Rubens, Concord-based attorneys Martin Honigberg and Brad Cook, Demos democracy program director Stuart Comstock-Gay and John Rauh, director of Americans for Campaign Reform. The remaining appointment has not yet been made.
The state of Maine already has a similar voluntary public funding system in place, as do Arizona and Connecticut. A study completed last year by Maine’s Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices found that Maine’s Clean Elections Act “has had a positive effect in encouraging financially competitive races.”
“I am honored to serve the state of New Hampshire as a commissioner,” said Abrash Walton. “During the past decade, the cost of running for certain state offices has skyrocketed to exorbitant levels, and this commission is a great first step in addressing that trend by leveling the playing field for qualified candidates.” According to Abrash Walton, voluntary public funding allows candidates who qualify for campaign support to run competitive races, to spend more campaign time hearing directly from voters about their concerns, interests, aspirations and ideas, and to spend less time courting the big special-interest money (much of it from out of state) that these races have increasingly required. In addition, says Abrash Walton, public funding can reduce the average cost of campaigns and any candidate who prefers to run without public funding may do so.