Nov. 1—A Keene State College professor is running for Cheshire County District 1 in the N.H. House against a libertarian activist who, according to state law, could be disqualified from holding office if elected due to her looming sentence on a felony charge.
Democrat Nicholas Germana, 47, of Keene, has taught history at the college for more than a decade. In next Tuesday's election, he is up against Aria DiMezzo, also of Keene, who is on the ballot as a Republican. (DiMezzo said based on her religious views she is 13.7 billion years old, but lists her age as 36 on official documents.)
Earlier this year, DiMezzo pleaded guilty to a felony charge of operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business stemming from a federal bitcoin case centered on Ian Freeman, a fellow libertarian activist from Keene. Freeman is scheduled for trial later this year and is known for his radio program Free Talk Live. DiMezzo is slated to be sentenced in December.
"I did not have a business license," DiMezzo said of her felony conviction. "That is what I pled guilty to — not having a business license — because as I understood it I did not require a business license ... Prosecutors disagreed."
According to state law, convicted felons cannot serve in the N.H. House until after they have served their sentence, including parole. If a candidate who had not yet been sentenced is elected, they would likely be disqualified and a special election would have to be held, a spokeswoman from the N.H. Secretary of State's Office said Tuesday.
Both Germana and DiMezzo ran uncontested in their parties' primaries in September. Cheshire County District 1 covers Keene's Ward 1.
Germana, a Keene State alumnus, said that the U.S. Supreme Court's overturn of Roe v. Wade earlier this year and the passage of a state law restricting abortions, as well as passage of New Hampshire's so-called "divisive concepts" law, prompted him to run.
"That really woke me up to just how extreme the Republic Party, not only in the United States but in New Hampshire, has become," he said.
He said he is a practicing Catholic but believes everyone should have the right to make decisions about their own body. Politicians should not use the government as a vehicle to impose their religious beliefs on others, he said, suggesting an amendment to the state constitution that would enshrine people's right to abortion care.
"In the end this is about reproductive freedom," he said. "Reproductive rights are human rights."
As for DiMezzo, who ran unsuccessfully for Cheshire County sheriff in 2020, she said, "I'm pro-choice on everything."
That includes the right to abortion, DiMezzo said, as well as having no limits on guns, legalizing all drugs for recreational use and sale, and doing away with all taxes, zoning regulations and public schools.
"One of the things I've been trying to tell Republicans in particular about the last couple years is we don't really disagree on as many of these areas as they would think," DiMezzo said. "My difference with Republicans is I take these ideas a bit further than they do."
DiMezzo said she was not familiar with the state's "divisive concepts" law, which limits the ways in which public school teachers can discuss discrimination.
As a history professor, Germana said he has studied the history of slavery, segregation and discrimination in the U.S. and believes this law has chilled discussion of those important topics in schools.
Moreover, he said he believes the state Legislature has violated the N.H. Constitution by not providing an adequate education for students. The N.H. Supreme Court has held that education is a fundamental right.
Germana called New Hampshire's education-freedom accounts, also known as the voucher system — which give students of low income the opportunity to use state dollars for non-public schooling — "nothing less than an attempt to effectively defund public education."
"Public money needs to go to public schools," Germana said.
DiMezzo, on the other hand, called the education-freedom accounts a step in the right direction.
"Public schools are a waste of money," she said. "They're designed to make people dumb [and] uninterested in learning."
On guns — which DiMezzo said should not be restricted or regulated in any way — Germana said he is in favor of what he called "common-sense gun laws," like universal background checks and "red-flag" laws. Those laws, which have not passed in New Hampshire, allow police and sometimes family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person they believe may be a danger to themselves or others.
Germana also said he is in favor of designating schools as gun-free zones for everyone except school resource officers.
Both he and DiMezzo said they are in favor of legalizing cannabis for recreational use and sale. While DiMezzo said she would prefer there be no regulations or taxes on cannabis, she said she would be willing to "compromise" on those measures to legalize it.
Germana said while neighboring states have been reaping the profits of recreational cannabis, New Hampshire is losing a potential revenue stream — perhaps as much as $40 to $50 million — that could help fund education and treatment for substance-use disorders. A tax on recreational cannabis could help offset property taxes, he said.
In addition to believing the government should not tax its citizens and should instead receive its funding from sources like operating a lottery and personal contributions, DiMezzo said she is in favor of New Hampshire seceding from the United States.
She said she hopes that secession would destroy the concept of federal currency in the state and would distance Granite Staters from the wars the U.S. is involved in.
If elected, Germana said he would look at making child care in the region more accessible and affordable. He said child care workers in the state make only about $12 per hour.
"These are professionals," he said, noting that most early childhood educators are required to have a college degree. "They're not just babysitters."
Establishing signing and retention bonuses for child care workers could help to remedy the problem by providing a more livable wage, Germana said.
"There are obviously just so many issues to deal with," he said. "I'm learning a lot as someone who is running for office for the first time."
Find information about the candidates, voting, sample ballots and more for the upcoming election at www.sentinelsource.com/vote/
Ryan Spencer can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1412, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rspencerKS