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Liberty minded aim to contribute to the political and social landscape of the Granite State

Staff Report
March 02. 2014 9:56PM

Rep. Mark Warden, R-Goffstown, said he doesn't know of anyone keeping a tally of Free Staters running for public office.

Seeking office is "not necessarily the main goal of the Free State Project or the people who move here," he said.

"Many participants of the Free State Project are more involved on the cultural side of things or starting a business or getting involved in the media or just living their lives the way they want to without forcing their neighbors to do the same," said Warden, who was inspired by the Free State Project to move to New Hampshire in 2007.

Warden, 50, won a state representative seat in 2010 and was reelected in 2012.

A real estate agent, he estimated about 20 Free Staters have been elected to the Legislature over the past eight years, with about 10 still holding office.

At the local office level, Warden said, Free Staters number "in the dozens. It could be 30, 40, 50 people at one time being involved" in a local office.

Warden, who is running for reelection to the Goffstown Planning Board, said he doesn't talk about the Free State Project while campaigning.

"Nobody cares," Warden said. "The vast majority of people in New Hampshire never heard of the Free State Project, and when they learn of it, they think it's great."

Dante Scala, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, said the Free State Project hasn't "lived up to all the hoopla" when it sounded like "it was going to be some sort of mass movement."

"New Hampshire is more of a leave-us-alone state than let's-enlist-it-in-some-kind-of-movement kind of place," Scala said.

Still, Scala said he believes Free Staters have participated in the political process.

"I do think they have been part of the debate about the direction of the Republican Party," Scala said.

Scala said Warden's estimates about the number of Free Staters elected to the Legislature "sounds reasonable."

"It's possible even a small group could have an influence that's out of proportion to its size if we're talking about people who are kind of elites; by that I mean people who really want to get involved in political activism in New Hampshire," Scala said.

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