Dave Wheeler is running for New Hampshire’s Executive Council in district 5, a seat he has held before. He has a primary opponent whom I haven’t met and about whom I know little. I’m not writing today to make comparisons. This is about Dave.
I’ve known him for many years, going back to the days when he was a state rep from Milford. I could tell you about how he helped me long ago when I had to learn in a hurry how to deal with a state agency. I could tell you how when you elect him, you get his wife Joy as a bonus – just as tart and blunt and dedicated to the community as her husband. I could recommend that you check out the Wheelers’ Miracle Acres Farm for your next Christmas tree.
Another time, maybe, but not now. I want to make sure you remember one thing in particular that he did last time the voters of district 5 sent him to Concord: he stood up to Planned Parenthood. With two of his colleagues, he denied PP a Title X family-planning contract in 2011. (Ten other Title X contracts were approved that day, all with contractors who didn’t double as abortion providers.) It wasn’t Dave Wheeler’s first pro-life vote, but it was a particularly emphatic one. As a result, PP made a priority of hammering him in the 2012 election. He lost the seat, 52.5%-47.5%.
With his vote on the PP contract, Dave was doing what he was elected to do: read the fine print, ask questions, look hard at private agencies that rely on an uninterrupted flow of taxpayer dollars. It’s sad that the councilors elected in 2012 went back to business with New Hampshire’s premier abortion provider when the next round of Title X contracts came up in 2013.
The photo in this post is from 2011, taken at an event related to my day job. Dave is the tall gentleman towards the right. At the event, it was my privilege to present an award to the councilors who rejected that PP contract. Two of them have since retired. Only Dave Wheeler is left in the arena. Here’s an excerpt from what I said that evening as I made the presentation. Those councilors set a high bar for their successors. Think about this when you look at candidates for the Executive Council.
One morning in June 2011, I was in the Senate gallery awaiting a vote on the parental notification bill when someone quietly advised me that the Executive Council, by a vote of 3-2, had just rejected a $1.2 million contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. This was a shock to me, because I knew this had always been a routine Title Ten contract. Regrettably, the state has done business with PP for years.
With an annual budget of $18 million, PPNNE is New Hampshire’s principal abortion provider. When asked at a public hearing [in 2011] if they’d forgo providing abortion services as a condition to receive public funding, their answer was an emphatic “no.” Despite claims by PP that government funding is vital to providing certain essential services, according to their own 2009 annual report PPNNE spends over $3 million on administration and general costs, $597,000 on marketing and $714,000 on public policy which includes lobbyists. After the council vote, PP went so far as to launch a publicity campaign attacking the three councilors who voted down the contract. Pink t-shirts and lawn signs appeared, saying “I Stand With PP,” paid for by PP.
Planned Parenthood chose not to divert one penny from administration, marketing or public policy to compensate for the loss of taxpayer funds. When it came down to a choice between providing health care and distributing pink lawn signs, they went with the lawn signs.That was not a political decision forced by any executive councilor. That was a PP policy decision that ill befits a state contractor.
It’s worth noting that ten other Title Ten contracts were approved the same day PP’s was rejected – hardly the action of a council determined to deny health care to anyone. These contracts usually fly under the radar for most of us. It’s to their credit that these three councilors didn’t let that happen.
Now in 2014, Dave Wheeler is back. It’ll take more than a bunch of pink lawn signs to scare him off. I wonder if that’s true about the other candidates on the ballot.