Recently retired Marine Col. Gary Lambert looks to the Marine Corps for a parallel to explain his pledge to serve only three terms — a mere six years — if elected to the 2nd New Hampshire Congressional district this fall.
Command assignments in the Marines last two to three years at the most, then the commander moves on, no matter how good he is, Lambert said.
“It’s enough (time) to get something done, yet not enough to get entrenched in that, sometimes, DC cesspool,” Lambert said last week at the New Hampshire Union Leader.
The 54-year-old is running against four others, including state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, for the Republican nomination to represent the vast, C-shaped congressional district, which includes the North Country, western New Hampshire, and the Nashua and Salem areas.
Lambert was a one-term state senator from 2010 to 2012 from the Nashua area. He said he was the first Republican in 94 years to represent his Nashua district in the state Senate.
He grew up in Rhode Island in a family that, according to his biography, lived below its means. He worked at McDonald’s, a textile mill and a meat market. In his second year in college, his father died suddenly.
Lambert’s mother, a post World War II German immigrant, took a job as a nurse’s aide at a nursing home and earned her GED. At 82, she still works at the nursing home.
Lambert joined the Marine reserves in the late 1980s. When not activated, he has run a small law firm, where he concentrates on patent and trademark law.
The highlight of his career was the six months he spent as a Marine lawyer in Iraq, he said. He was the No. 2 military lawyer for coalition forces during that time in late 2004.
Coalition forces had just given the country back to the Iraqis. The Coalition forces’ legal team helped the Iraqis write their constitution. Lambert was president of the detainee review board, which determined who would take custody of Saddam Hussein loyalists and insurgents.
Lambert said he moved to New Hampshire in 1994, shortly after traveling to the state on a blind date. He met his future wife, Lori. They have been married 18 years and have two daughters.
They have been involved heavily in their adopted city. He is a member of the First Church in Nashua and raised $2 million as co-chair of a capital campaign.
He’s on the board of a family-faith foundation and the local mental health center. His wife is on the board of St. Joseph Hospital; she helped raise $2 million for the local soup kitchen.
On the campaign trail, the biggest issue is Obamacare, Lambert said. Businesses can’t afford it, nor can the working poor whom the health care law was supposed to help, he said.
“I think we need to repeal it and replace it with free market alternatives,” Lambert said. That includes multi-state insurance marketplaces and a requirement that hospitals post their prices, he said.
He calls himself pro-life and said he favors the Hobby Lobby decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Government regulations, especially environmental regulations, hamstring business, he said.
As a state senator, Lambert voted to keep New Hampshire enrolled in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Lambert said that if New Hampshire were to exit RGGI, electrical customers would have had to pay millions in higher electrical rates with no benefit.
But he would have voted against RGGI when it was established; he rules out voting for any federal cap and trade system.
“I look at a national cap and trade program like Obamacare. It would be a nightmare,” Lambert said. He said human activity probably contributes to global warming, but none of the people he speaks to on the street care about climate change.
When it comes to entitlements, he ruled out cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits for retirees and those nearing retirement age. Lambert said he wants a Congressional committee to come up with reforms; he would not endorse any specific reforms during an interview.
“Isn’t that what committees are for and panels are for?” he said.
Lambert retired six weeks ago as a Marine. He wears a Bronze Star ribbon on his lapel and cuff links with a Marine Corps emblem.
Lambert said it’s easy to second-guess the decision to invade Iraq. At the time, countries were coming together and intelligence agencies reported about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
He faults Obama for not reaching a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. Such an agreement was key to keeping U.S. forces inside the country, he said.
Lambert said the United States needs to be more engaged in the world. But he would not favor military engagement with the al Qaeda splinter group ISIS — Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“By itself, in a vacuum, us engaging with ISIS, I don’t see that as a national security issue right now.”