Claremont. Population 13,000. But that number could soon swell with Libertarians eyeing a Free State. The chairman of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire says Claremont may be where the Free State Project takes root.
"I believe Claremont is poised for a rebirth, if you will," says John Babiarz, Chairman of the New Hampshire Libertarian Party.
As many as 20,000 Libertarians may move to New Hampshire to build support for limited government and stronger personal liberties.
"Claremont has the infrastructure necessary. It's been neglected for many years by poor local policies, but that has been changing. With the influx of people with a can-do spirit, I think we can revitalize Claremont and the surrounding area."
And Claremont is laying out the welcome mat. Economic development director Mark Aldrich says he's not surprised the Libertarians have their eyes on Claremont. Like much of New Hampshire -- it has relatively low taxes and a favorable business climate that appeals to the Libertarians.
"There's a general recognition that we need to grow the community. We would be happy to accommodate some of that growth here in Claremont," says Aldrich.
"There's a lot of corporate expansion, new jobs being created. Quite frankly, with the low unemployment rate of 2.6 percent, we're not quite sure where we're going to get those new workers," says Aldrich.
Of course, not everybody in New Hampshire is welcoming the Free State Project with such open arms. The head of the state Democratic party has described the Libertarian agenda as radical and anti-family.
They say the Libertarians would eliminate fire departments and cut back public schools and funding for health care, while legalizing drug use and prostitution.
John Babiarz says that's an unfair overstatement.
"What happens is people characterize us on the extreme side, and that is not fair," says Babiarz.
But Claremont officials say tolerance is what matters.
"If these people are, as john Babiarz and others have said are entrepreneurial class, small business people, who will come here and bring their companies and create jobs in the area, I think we can tolerate different views in the community," says Aldrich.
Claremont doesn't need to pull out the Welcome Wagon just yet. The Free State Project has not yet started moving its members and its leaders say they are also considering settling in Coos and Grafton counties.
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