Secessionist, selectman square off on GOP ballot for Kahn's seat

·5 min read

Aug. 6—Sylvester "Sly" Karasinski, a member of the Swanzey selectboard, is running for state Senate on a platform of fiscal conservatism in line with the present GOP majority in the N.H. Legislature.

His opponent in the Sept. 13 Republican primary for N.H. Senate District 10, Keene radio host Ian Freeman, has a different priority: He wants New Hampshire to secede from the United States.

Freeman, known for libertarian activism and the radio program "Free Talk Live," is facing 25 federal felony charges relating to cryptocurrency. Prosecutors claim he, and several alleged co-conspirators, ran an unlicensed virtual currency-exchange business that handled more than $10 million in transactions.

Freeman, 42, said he's not concerned about running for office while facing criminal charges.

"We are expecting to win when this goes to a jury trial," he said.

Karasinski, 58, said Friday that the idea of New Hampshire seceding from the union is "crazy talk."

Still, the issue was actually voted on in the last legislative session, and received more than a dozen Republican votes.

Rep. Matthew Santonastaso, R-Rindge, who is running for re-election, urged the N.H. House on March 10 to put a constitutional amendment before voters that would have New Hampshire "peaceably declare independence from the United States of America and proceed as its own sovereign nation."

The legislation was defeated, 323-13.

Karasinski's priorities seem to be much more in tune with the Republican majority that now controls the Legislature.

He wants to make sure the state never adopts a general sales tax or an income tax and that it continues with its phase-out of the interest and dividends tax, which he said hits the elderly particularly hard.

"I'd be afraid that if the other side ever got ahold of the Legislature they'd probably reverse that course and bring back the interest and dividends tax," Karasinski said.

The state Department of Revenue Administration says on its website that this tax is being reduced yearly and is scheduled to be fully repealed for taxable periods beginning Dec. 31, 2026.

Opponents say this tax reduction mainly benefits large, out-of-state corporations and contend the state could better help average citizens by supporting municipalities in a way that would reduce property taxes.

Karasinski, superintendent of the North Swanzey Water & Fire Precinct, favors maintaining a strong surplus, or Rainy Day Fund, "so if we ever do have another pandemic or problem we can survive it."

He wants New Hampshire's abortion law to become more restrictive.

The Republican-backed statute, approved last year, bans most abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy. But Karasinski said it's possible a fetus could be viable before that threshold, so he'd like to see the ban placed at 20 weeks.

He described himself as a "big proponent of school choice," or the use of public money for parents to place their children in private school.

"I think state education funding should follow the child," Karasinski said. "I think we all realize the big one-size-fits-all doesn't work for everybody and there's a lot of children out there who don't have much luck with the public school system."

He disagrees with the idea that overall support for public education is diluted by such school-voucher and publicly funded scholarship programs, and said he has concerns with some classroom instruction.

A Republican-supported law approved last year bans public school instruction about certain aspects of discrimination. It is often called the "divisive-concepts" law although these words don't appear in the statute.

Karasinski has not read the law, but posed a question:

"Let me ask you, at what age do you think a child should be told they are racist based on the color of their skin?" Karasinski asked.

Opponents of the law say there is no evidence children are being taught any such thing, and Karasinski couldn't point to any specific examples of this type of instruction.

"I don't have that information but it has been out on social media and whatnot," he said.

Meanwhile, Freeman's campaign is based on harsh criticism of the federal government.

"They are oppressing the people of New Hampshire," he said. "They are taxing, they are regulating, and that's always been true whether Trump, Bush, Obama or Biden."

The federal government is evil, he said.

"They kill countless hundreds of thousands if not millions with ongoing wars of aggression," Freeman said. "There are hundreds of thousands of people in prison cells, many of whom haven't harmed another human being. You're doing wrong and harming brothers, sisters, neighbors and friends. That's the epitome of evil to me."

He asserted there is significant support for the idea of a state declaring independence from the United States.

A June 2021 survey by YouGov, a data analytics firm, and Bright Line Watch, a political research company, indicated that 37 percent of Americans, and 34 percent of those in the Northeast, had a willingness for their state to secede from the U.S. and join a new union with other states in their region.

However, the survey, which polled 2,750 people, cautions that the results reflect initial reactions by respondents about an issue they were unlikely to have considered carefully.

Freeman said he generally holds libertarian viewpoints and would like to put an end to laws against drugs, gambling and prostitution. He would like to let "adults make decisions for themselves."

He favors making taxes voluntary.

In the Nov. 8 general election, the winner of the race between Freeman and Karasinski will face the winner of a Democratic race between auto-dealership executive and state Rep. Donovan Fenton and software engineer and Keene City Councilor Bobby Williams.

The vacancy in N.H. Senate District 10 arises from a decision by N.H. Sen. Jay Kahn, D-Keene, not to seek a fourth term.

Senate District 10 comprises Alstead, Chesterfield, Dublin, Hancock, Harrisville, Keene, Marlborough, Nelson, Peterborough, Roxbury, Sullivan, Surry, Swanzey, Walpole and Westmoreland.

Rick Green can be reached at RGreen@KeeneSentinel.com or 603-355-8567