Another View -- Andru Volinsky and Chris Pappas: Edelblut can do politics, or his jobBy ANDRU VOLINSKY and CHRIS PAPPAS
August 31. 2017 12:16AM
DO YOU BELIEVE, as we do, that New Hampshire is best served by non-partisan leadership of our state government agencies?
Commissioners of various departments — from Safety to Health and Human Services — have ably served governors of both parties without inserting partisan political influences. Many of us would have to guess whether these commissioners are Democrats or Republicans, or if they have any political leanings at all.
Most of our state department heads serve in this well-established, rich tradition of non-partisanship. Unfortunately, this is not true for New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, as he continues to reject precedent by using his state office as a platform to engage in partisan political activities.
That Edelblut maintains a political profile as commissioner should not be a surprise. During a seven-hour confirmation hearing, Edelblut replied “I can’t say that” when asked if he would avoid political activities as other commissioners do. The only thing that’s more surprising than Edelblut thinking this is acceptable is the fact that Gov. Chris Sununu and the majority of the Executive Council tolerate it.
Since being confirmed by the council on a 3-2 vote, Edelblut’s political dance card has been full. He has been billed as a speaker at Republican Party gatherings from New Boston to the Mount Washington Valley.
In July, he used his position as education commissioner to keynote the annual fundraising dinner for the Liberty Alliance, another politically active group with an extreme agenda.
In September, Edelblut will be the featured speaker at the Right-of-Center conference.
The stated purpose of the invitation-only event is to brainstorm ways to advance the extreme right’s agenda. This means undermining the public school system by diverting very limited state funds to charter schools, and to the parents of homeschooled children who are relieved of the need to follow any curriculum or to achieve any level of proficiency.
Of course, the diverted funds must be replaced by increases in local property taxes. Former Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien is the host of the conference.
Edelblut’s attendance at these events and fundraisers does not build confidence. Who’s (sic) agenda is Mr. Edelblut pursuing as the education commissioner? It is not likely that of schoolchildren or taxpayers. It is an extreme agenda likely designed to give Edelblut — who barely lost to Sununu in 2016 — another shot at political office someday.
Whether we agree with the commissioner’s politics is not the issue. We advise all commissioners to stay out of the political arena and focus their time and attention on the job for which they are paid by the citizens of this state.
If Edelblut is unwilling to become a non-partisan leader like every other commissioner in state government, then he should step down and pursue his interest in a political career on a full-time basis.
Andru Volinsky represents District 2. Chris Pappas represents District 4.