By JOHN DiSTASO, News Editor
(Monday, June 9:)
Attorney Andru Volinsky of Concord told the New Hampshire Journal Monday afternoon he will not run for the District 15 state Senate seat being vacated by Senate Democdratic Leader Sylvia Larsen. Volinsky cited professional responsibilities.
(Our earlier report follows:)
(Thursday June 5:)
CONCORD – Two veteran Democratic Concord education advocates are focusing on the District 15 state Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen.
School board member and former president Kassandra Ardinger said Thursday she is definitely running and will file next Wedensday, June 11. Attorney Andru Volinsky, known for leading the fight against the state’s former method of paying for public education, said he is strongly considering running and will take a few days to decide.
Ardinger, reported by the New Hampshire Journal via Twitter on Wednesday as being the preferred candidate of the state Democratic Party, said she attended a Democratic caucus reception for Larsen on Wednesday night, was introduced there, and will be part of the group filing for Senate seats by the Democratic caucus on June 11.
The niece of former state Senate Democratic Leader and two-time candidate for governor Harry V. Spanos, Ardinger led the Concord school board as president for five years during a building reorganization that saw a consolidation of nine schools to five, the demolition of two schools and the opening of the three new ones.
“We did it all in 18 months and it was all under budget” by about $7.5 million, Ardinger said in an interview.
“I have the time and I have the commitment, and I feel like I could do the challenging business that really is at the state level,” she said.
Also eyeing the seat are former U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England senior policy advisor Jennifer Frizzell, Concord attorney Jay Surdukowski and Republican Jim O’Brien, chairman of the Hopkinton Board of Selectmen.
Ardinger said she “grew up in Democratic politics, but (running for state office) was never something I set out to do. I’ve been very happy working on the school board. It’s been so gratifying to be able to do the work we were able to accomplish.
“That is really my passion, public education,” she said. “And I really enjoy public service, and I think I have the skills I’ve built since 2006 when I was elected.”
Volinsky told New Hampshire Journal that with his friend, Senate Democratic Leader Larsen, announcing her retirement from the Senate, he is making telephone calls and having conversations about the possibility of running for the seat.
Although Volinsky has been involved in public policy issues for about 30 years, he has run for office only once before, losing a New Hampshire House seat.
“I have had a few conversations” about the District 15 seat, which comprises all of Concord, as well as Hopkinton, Henniker and Warner, Volinsky said.
“And I’ll have a few more conversations over the next few days.”
In the 1990s, Volinsky lead a team of attorneys who successfully fought the state’s prior way of funding public education almost entirely through local property taxes. Although a trial court decided in favor of the state, and against the five “property-poor” Claremont plaintiff districts, the state Supreme Court overturned that decision and in 1997 ruled the prior system unconstitutional.
That set in motions years of legislative debate and work, and several plans – and calls for constitutional amendment – that led to the current, more evenly balanced, funding method.
Volinsky has been with the Bernstein Shur law firm for just more than 10 years. He manages the firm’s New Hampshire office and is general counsel for the entire firm.
He has also worked to abolish capital punishment by providing pro bono representation of defendants in Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and before the U.S. Supreme Court.
His long resume also includes his role as special counsel to the state Bureau of Securities Regulation in the case of the former Local Government Center.
While a staunch Democrat, Volinsky has not always been in line with the party establishment, despite his friendship with and support for Larsen.
He backed former state Sen. Jackie Cilley in her unsuccessful gubernatorial primary run against Gov. Maggie Hassan in 2012. Cilley, unlike Hassan, refused to pledge to veto broad-based taxes for New Hampshire.
In earlier years, he was a supporter of Deborah “Arnie” Arnesen’s congressional bid. “Arnie” advocated an income tax to offset property taxes in her unsuccessful bid for governor in 1992 against Steve Merrill.
Ardinger said she is proud of the restructuring of the Concord schools district building alignment using federal stimulus money, “and we were the last school district to get in on the old state building aid program before the moratorium shut the door on that.”