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Best wishes, Ray: The dean is on the mend

February 28. 2013 9:03PM

Ray Burton, the indefatigable advocate of all things north of Concord during the terms of the past 10 New Hampshire governors, has a new fight on his hands. We expect him to win once again.

Treatments for a curable form of kidney cancer have required the 73-year-old executive councilor to take a break from his normal nonstop schedule and forced him to check into Woodsville's Cottage Hospital. He's home now, but Burton still faces another month or two of chemotherapy. That powerful medicine often leaves patients half his age exhausted, which means it is just about as tough as Burton's typical work week.

For decades, this editorial page has criticized Burton and questioned his outsized political clout. But we understand why his popularity has been so high for so long. It's not just about the dollars he brings back to District 1. While many politicians feign a love for their district, Ray Burton's commitment is real. After decades of phone calls, meetings, ribbon-cuttings, radio shows and civic events, many voters believe they have no better friend in Concord.

In last September's primary, a feisty GOP challenger did not hesitate to praise Burton's years of service. "I know Ray has an excellent record," the underdog said. "He's the best one in the state in the way he responds to his constituents." The incumbent promptly trounced him, winning 71 percent of the vote. In the general election, his opponent felt it necessary to salute him as "a legend." In the midst of the Democratic sweep, Burton easily won his 18th term.

There will be less wear and tear on New Hampshire's rural byways while Ray's car is parked and he is at home. Perhaps the state should shift some highway money to other districts. No, we're not serious. But if the councilor believes anyone might try, he's likely to recover even quicker than his doctors think possible, just to protect his beloved road projects.

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