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Former state rep campaigns against a union president in Manchester race

March 17. 2013 10:17PM

MANCHESTER - Voters in Hillsborough County District 9 Manchester Ward 2 will choose a new state representative Tuesday.

Republican former state Rep. Win Hutchinson and Democrat Bill O'Neil are running for the seat in the city's northeast section after Robert Thompson, who was elected in November, resigned and moved to Florida.

O'Neil, the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2320, is running for public office for the first time while Hutchinson is seeking reelection for the second time in five months. Hutchinson was an incumbent last fall, but was unseated when Democrats Linda DiSilvestro and Thompson won both seats in November.

Both candidates have been campaigning, although Hutchinson already knows many of the voters because of his previous election.

The winner will be sworn in and vote on critical budget issues, including casino gambling and the proposed gas tax increase.

O'Neil would support a temporary gas tax under certain provisions. "I'd vote for a short-term usage tax to repair roads and bridges that have been closed or in need of immediate repair," he said. "It would be a short-term fix and then we'd work on a long-term fix."

Hutchinson is leaning against the gas tax because he fears the money will not be spent as intended. "I can't see us throwing another 15 cents on a gallon of gas at a time like this and have no guarantee that money will go to roads and bridges." Hutchinson said he would support gambling, but he takes issue with Gov. Maggie Hassan's proposed budget already including revenue from it while the budget still needs approval.

A group called Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire is trying to play a role in Tuesday's election, sending out two mailings critical of O'Neil, who says the group can't get its facts straight, but is clearly anti-labor.

The first mailing claims that, as president of Local 2320, O'Neil and the union supported a plan that raised electric rates by over 34 percent. The pamphlet cites a Jan. 1 New Hampshire Union Leader article about the Public Utilities Commission approving a rate increase for Public Service of New Hampshire customers, but the article makes no mention of IBEW.

O'Neil said the allegation was even more preposterous because Local 2320's membership consists of communications workers.

The second mailing said in big bold letters "Facts IBEW President Bill O'Neil doesn't want you to know about Obamacare." O'Neil said he is president of a local chapter of IBEW, not the national union president, and is quite far removed from the controversial national health care plan.

Hutchinson said he is not in any way affiliated with the group and does not condone its methods.

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