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Petition: Baldasaro should step down from committee

By Doug Ireland  |  Eagle Tribune  |  View story in the original context
PUBLISHED: October 12, 2011

LONDONDERRY - Democrats are ramping up their efforts to get Rep. Al Baldasaro to resign as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

But the Londonderry Republican reiterated yesterday he's not stepping down.

"I'm not going anywhere," Baldasaro said. "I'm not resigning."

The New Hampshire Democratic Party announced yesterday more than 600 people have signed its online petition asking Baldasaro to step down as chairman after comments he made Sept. 30 to the political blog ThinkProgress.

The three-term representative received a fire storm of criticism after saying he was "disgusted" when an openly gay soldier asked a question regarding "don't ask, don't tell" over a video hookup during a presidential primary debate in Florida.

"Al Baldasaro is clearly incapable of serving as an advocate for all veterans and Speaker (William) O'Brien must swiftly remove him from this position," the petition reads.

Baldasaro, who is campaigning for GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry, made the comments after the Texas governor's Town Hall meeting in Derry.

Soldier Stephen Hill was booed by the crowd at the debate Sept. 22 when asked about the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." Baldasaro said he doesn't regret his remarks.

"He (the soldier) doesn't realize it," Baldasaro told ThinkProgress, "but when the (expletive) hits the fan, you want your brothers covering your back, not looking at your back."

Baldasaro, who served in the Marines, was then asked if he thought the soldier should have been booed.

"I thought the audience, when they booed, I thought it was great," he said.

Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said yesterday people across the state, including many veterans, have expressed their disappointment in Baldasaro. The petition will be presented to O'Brien, he said.

Baldasaro said yesterday he has received emails of support from constituents.

"The only ones who are making a big deal about this is the liberals," he said. "The Democrats need to worry about the economy and jobs. I'm getting big support from the veterans organizations."

But one veteran who thinks Baldasaro should step down is David Robinson of Kearsarge, a U.S. Navy veteran and member of the national veterans group VoteVets.org.

"For Baldasaro to insult the professionalism of today's military and to call any soldier in harm's way 'disgusting' is un-American and wrong," he said in a prepared statement.

Members of the House State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs Committee had mixed views yesterday on Baldasaro's comments.

"I think Al should reassess his position," said Rep. Marshal Quandt, R-Exeter. "I don't dislike Al, but I think he may want to reconsider his position and restate it in better terms."

Quandt, a Vietnam veteran, said that as representatives of the people, elected officials must be careful of what they say.

"We're all entitled to our opinion, but when you're an elected official, you have to be careful about your opinion," he said.

He would not say if Baldasaro should resign as chairman.

"I think that should be between he and the Speaker," Quandt said.

Spokeswoman Shannon Shutts said last week O'Brien has no intention of asking Baldasaro to resign.

Another committee member, Rep. Lars Christiansen, R-Hudson, said he doesn't think Baldasaro should step down.

"It's baloney; he's done a good job," Christiansen said. "I disagree completely with that."

He said Baldasaro is always helping veterans, especially those having trouble receiving benefits through the Veterans Administration.

"Al is a fighter," he said. "Al is fighting for veterans."

Another supporter is Ed Keefe, adjutant of the Londonderry American Legion post, where Baldasaro is a member.

"Al Baldasaro does more for veterans than people even know," Keefe said. "He does everything."

If a veteran has any type of problem, Baldasaro is always there, Keefe said.

"And I'm a Democrat," he said. "Our political views may not be the same, but he's a veteran."

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