Two GOP candidates vie for Winchester House seat

·3 min read

Sep. 9—Winchester residents Max Santonastaso and Zachary Nutting, who are in Tuesday's Republican primary for an N.H. House seat, both say they have a pro-liberty agenda, but there is something on which they disagree.

Santonastaso said that if he were a representative this past session, he would have voted for legislation proposing a statewide vote on whether New Hampshire should break away from the rest of the United States.

His brother, Rep. Matthew Santonastaso, R-Rindge, was one of the sponsors of the measure, CACR 32, which was killed in a 323-13 vote of the House on March 10.

"It just would have asked the public whether they affirm to being ruled by the U.S. government. I would have voted in favor of it," Max Santonastaso said. "If I voted against it, I would have been saying, 'I'm smarter than all of you.' "

Nutting, on the other hand, said he supports individual freedom, but seceding from the union would be a step too far and that he wouldn't have supported CACR 32.

Santonastaso, 27, is a heating-oil delivery driver who is planning a career in law enforcement. He said he will start on-the-job training as a Hinsdale police officer in about a month.

He said he is running because he wants to preserve what he regards as special about New Hampshire.

"There are a lot of unique things about the state politically," he said. "The highlight on individual freedom goes further than other states."

He noted that New Hampshire does not have a general sales or wage tax, doesn't require adults to wear seatbelts or motorcycle helmets, doesn't force people to carry car insurance or have a permit or license for open or concealed carry of a handgun.

Santonastaso said he'd like to protect these freedoms from those who would take them away.

"It's a small state with a small population, so it wouldn't take much to move the needle in the opposite direction," he said in an interview this week.

"I think there is a general misunderstanding of how government works. Its nature is to grow."

He would like freedom to be expanded, for example, through legalization of marijuana, and laments what he considers as federal incursion into personal liberty.

Santonastaso said one such incursion came through a law signed by then-President Donald Trump that sets the purchase age for tobacco at 21. Local officials should be the ones to set that age, he argues.

"How is it that a few people in D.C. can just decide for the entire country what's going to work in their communities?" he asked. "How ignorant is that? They have no idea how this community works.

"Of course the federal government also involves us in international wars."

Meanwhile, his opponent, Nutting, 39, says he's running because he wants to provide service to the community and "pay it forward." He works as a service manager in the vending machine industry and owns a food truck business, which he said has made food donations to those in need.

Nutting also is a federal firearms licensee who runs a gun shop out of his garage. He says he's an advocate of the Second Amendment and doesn't want to see increased gun regulations.

He would like to see lower taxes.

"I know we can't just keep going the way we have been," he said. "Taxes have been going up and up and up. A lot of the elderly and those on fixed incomes can't afford it."

Nutting said the government needs to cut down on wasteful spending.

"We need to give schools everything we can give them, but we also need to make sure we're not spending money needlessly. We need to make sure we're getting good value for what we're spending."

Natalie Quevedo of Winchester is the only listed candidate on the Democratic side of the race for Cheshire County House District 11, which covers Winchester. The general election is Nov. 8.

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