CONCORD, N.H. — Between two and three times each week over the last year, Legislative leadership prodded people who had run for state office to show up to vote on issues ranging from tax benefits to the death penalty.
Time and time again, the House of Representative chambers in Concord would be dotted with empty seats. The issue has grown so notable that, earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn proposed withholding legislators' annual $100 stipend that until the end of the session.
"We usually have a big focus each year around a certain bill or different issue. It seems like this year, our number one issue was attendance," Speaker of the House Gene Chandler said this week.
A dozen local legislators missed sizable chunks of House votes ranging from 38 to 93 percent, according to state data compiled by The Eagle-Tribune. The majority are seeking reelection.
"As a former teacher, I can’t help but look at percentages and think of letter grades. Showing up only 60 percent of the time is D-level performance," Salem candidate Kelly Moss said. "It may be a volunteer legislature, but elected officials should still take the work seriously and not run for office if they are unable to make the commitment necessary to do the work required."
A couple of the statehouse's worst attendees come from Rockingham and eastern Hillsborough counties.
Two state representatives with frequent absences are also facing legal problems.
Hillsborough Rep. Eric Schleien, R-Pelham, cast his vote on only two days this session — February 8 and May 10 — leading to his 93 percent absentee rate. Schleien is also facing assault and sexual assault charges against a 16-year-old in Rockingham County.
Rep. John Manning, R-Salem, missed 103 of 242 votes, or 42.5 percent. He's also facing welfare fraud charges.
Elected officials generally meet every Thursday for votes and have been doing so for years, Chandler said.
"It's tough to be there if you're working.... There's no question it's tough to do with a 9-to-5 job. But, you know if you're working when you run for the position," Chandler said.
He noted that the attendance issues has probably has impacted some votes held this session.
District 4 candidate Becky Owens said that the absentee rate is actually one of the reasons she entered the race. In particular, she was dismayed to see that the school choice bill she supported was defeated by a small margin during a May vote, from which dozens of legislators were absent.
Meanwhile, Rep. Bob Rimol, R-Londonderry, was present for just three voting days between Jan. 3 and March 6, after which point his stopped showing up altogether.
Some, like Atkinson-Plaistow reps. Debra DeSimone and William Friel and Londonderry Rep. David Lundgren, have a history of missing votes. The trio missed between half and two-thirds of the votes held last session.
This year also marked the fourth consecutive term in which Friel didn't sponsor or co-sponsor any legislation.
Neither responded to requests for comment over the last week. When asked last June about his attendance record, Lundgren told The Eagle-Tribune that his constituents are aware and accepting of his full-time job and how it impacts his attendance.
"I do what I can and my constituents know that," Lundgren said.
Derry representatives Brian Chirichiello and Patricia Dowling said that their absences this last year were a blip on their otherwise excellent attendance records.
Chirichiello attributed his 91 absences — the majority of which fell in a four-week-long span of February and March — to being sick for one week and going on a previously planned vacation.
Outside of illness and full-time employment requirements, there is no clear pattern among those officials who miss substantial chunks of votes. They are young and old, newcomers and long-time legislators.
A handful of office holders, including some of the more absent officials, have chosen not to run again this fall. Rep. Gregory Smith, R-Pelham, told The Eagle-Tribune that he is not running because his new job requires more travel and allows less time for the Legislature.
District 4 (Sandown)
Jess Edwards: Missed 5 of 242 votes
Joseph Hagan: Missed 5 of 242 votes
Kari Lerner: Missed 36 of 242 votes
Jason Osborne: Missed 76 of 242 votes
Chris True: Missed 1 of 242 votes
District 5 (Londonderry)
Al Baldasaro: Missed 24 of 242 votes
Martin Bove: Missed 34 of 242 votes
David Lundgren: Missed 124 of 242 votes (51 percent)
Betsy McKinney: Missed 46 of 242 votes
Sherman Packard: Missed 12 of 242 votes
Bob Rimol: Missed 207 of 242 votes (85.5 percent)
Douglas Thomas: Missed 1 of 242 votes
District 6 (Derry)
Brian Chirichiello: Missed 91 of 242 votes (38 percent)
Patricia Dowling: Missed 96 of 242 votes (40 percent)
Robert Fesh: Missed 29 of 242 votes
Phyllis Katsakiores: Missed 25 of 242 votes
David Milz: Missed 3 of 242 votes
John O’Connor: Missed 1 of 242 votes
Frank Sapareto: Missed 44 of 242 votes
Richard Tripp: Missed 62 of 242 votes
James Webb: Missed 2 of 242 votes
Brenda Willis: Missed 36 of 242 votes
District 7 (Windham)
David Bates: Missed 21 of 242 votes
Mary Griffin: Missed 0 of 242 votes
Walter Kolodziej: Missed 20 of 242 votes
Charles McMahon: Missed 1 of 242 votes
District 8 (Salem)
Arthur Barnes: Missed 57 of 242 votes
Robert Elliott: Missed 26 of 242 votes
Betty Gay: Missed 5 of 242 votes
John Janigian: Missed 43 of 242 votes
John Manning: Missed 103 of 242 votes (42.5 percent)
John Sytek: Missed 24 of 242 votes
District 12 (Danville)
Steve Woitkun: Missed 136 of 242 votes (56 percent)
District 13 (Hampstead, Kingston)
Dennis Green: Missed 10 of 242 votes
Joseph Guthrie: Missed 30 of 242 votes
David Welch: Missed 5 of 242 votes
Kenneth Weyler: Missed 10 of 242 votes
District 14 (Atkinson, Plaistow)
Debra DeSimone: Missed 100 of 242 votes (41 percent)
William Friel: Missed 92 of 242 votes (38 percent)
Norman Major: Missed 18 of 242 votes
Peter Torosian: Missed 0 of 242 votes
District 15 (Newton)
Mary Allen: Missed 18 of 242 votes
District 33 (Danville)
Scott Wallace: Missed 23 of 242 votes
District 34 (Atkinson, Hampstead, Kingston, Plaistow)
Mark Pearson: Missed 6 of 242 votes
District 35 (Newton)
Richard Gordon: Missed 17 of 242 votes
District 37 (Pelham)
Caleb Dyer: Missed 85 of 242 votes (35 percent)
Steve Hellwig: Missed 112 of 242 votes (46 percent)
Russell Ober: Missed 10 of 242 votes
Lynne Ober: Missed 14 of 242 votes
Andrew Prout: Missed 0 of 242 votes
Andrew Renzullo: Missed 9 of 242 votes
Kimberly Rice: Missed 50 of 242 votes
Eric Schleien: Missed 225 of 242 votes (93 percent)
Gregory Smith: Missed 161 of 242 votes (66.5 percent)
Jordan Ulery: Missed 1 of 242 votes