SEABROOK - A citizens petition opposing "sanctuary cities" passed by more than 1,200 votes across four towns Tuesday, though the article created a rift between its author and the Libertarian Party.
School officials were perplexed when Libertarian state Rep. Max Abramson of Seabrook put the non-binding petition on the Winnacunnet Cooperative School District ballot for Tuesday's Town Meeting. The article asked voters to agree that no school district nor town official shall establish Sanctuary Cities policies that prevent immigration laws from being enforced.
Abramson said he put the article on the school ballot to get the question in front of voters in multiple towns rather than one. It passed in Hampton, North Hampton, Seabrook and Hampton Falls by a cumulative vote of 3,519 to 2,306. It passed 1,716 to 1,187 in Hampton, 454 to 295 in Hampton Falls, 588 to 443 in North Hampton and 761 to 381 in Seabrook.
"It shows overwhelming opposition to sanctuary cities and finally allowed the public to have their say on it," said Abramson, who added before the vote that immigration affects voters "more than probably any other single one policy issue."
Abramson previously cosponsored legislation banning sanctuary cities statewide. The bill was killed last year, but he said he plans to file or support similar legislation in the future.
The petition drew praise from conservatives like Hampton Selectman Regina Barnes, who recently announced her run for state Senate as a Republican this year. It also drew criticism from members of the Libertarian Party, whose platform embraces open borders. Abramson switched to being Libertarian after being elected as a Republican in 2018, and he announced last year he was running for the Libertarian presidential nomination.
Brian Shields, chair of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, said party members felt convinced Abramson's beliefs did not align enough with the party platform. The recent petition regarding sanctuary cities, he said, was viewed as further confirmation.
"Max Abramson deserves to be censured by the state party for his continued opposition to the platform and principles of the Libertarian Party," read a letter to the editor from Darryl Perry, former chair of the Libertarian Party in New Hampshire (LPNH). Shields said Perry also directly requested LPNH take such action, and they were considering it when Abramson decided to withdraw from the party.
"My reason is simple: the abusiveness and bullying that I've seen from some activists, trolls and Antifa thugs who now claim to speak for all Libertarians has reached a point where we cannot recruit and keep people in the LP," Abramson wrote in a post on Facebook about his departure.
"He claims we were too mean," Shields said. Abramson's censure, he said, could have entailed the party separating itself from Abramson's actions, as well as calling for the removal of his membership or candidacy.
Shields said Abramson's petition violated the "freedom of movement," a core belief for the Libertarian Party, and supported statewide prohibitions on local action - enacting sanctuary city policies. He said that also went against the party's beliefs.
"He left the party while we were in the middle of a vote for it," Shields said. "If he had stayed, we most likely would have censured him."
Shields said Abramson is currently listed as a Democrat on the New Hampshire secretary of state's online voter lookup page, though Abramson said that was only the case because he wanted to vote for Tulsi Gabbard in the New Hampshire Primary.
The New Hampshire General Court website still listed Abramson as Libertarian this week, but Abramson said he currently has no party affiliation. He had been running a campaign for the Libertarian presidential nomination, and he said he is now encouraging people to vote for him as an independent.
"I'm a man without a party," Abramson said, "but still just vote with my district as a legislator."
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