Pamela Bump

While most political races had two candidates facing off on the ballot, Cheshire County’s battle for Cheshire County Attorney had Peter Heed battling against…Pete Heed.

Although he ran as both a Democrat and a Republican during the Nov. 6 Election, Heed emphasized that, “These [County Attorney positions] are not political positions. I don’t make the law … The issues that I talk about are justice, and fairness, and compassion, and public safety. I try to be good at what I do.”

Heed added that, although his position is an elected position of great importance in the criminal justice system, “it should not be seen as political.” Heed, who has been the County Attorney since 2006, explained his role as he said, “I’m essentially the chief prosecutor. I am the head law enforcement agent in all of Cheshire County.” Heed added, “I’m in charge of prosecuting all of the most serious law enforcement cases that come through Cheshire County with the exception of First and Second degree murder.”

Heed added, “My focus with my staff is with the more serious felonies, which occur in Cheshire County and they come through the Superior Court.”

The Office of the Cheshire County Attorney similarly explained, on their official website, that the position of the County Attorney is responsible for “the review and subsequent prosecution of all felony cases in Cheshire County, with the exception of murder cases which are handled by the office of the New Hampshire Attorney General. The Attorneys, upon request, assist police departments, as well as the State Police, in the prosecution of cases in the lower courts.“

Heed, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Cornell Law School, also had a private practice in Keene for many years and currently works as an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Keene State College. Heed also served as Attorney General in Concord, New Hampshire from 2003 to 2004.

Heed said, about his own position on politics, “I’ve connected more to the Republican side of things formally, but I have both Democratic and Republican connections. I support both Republican and Democratic candidates in other areas.”

“The role transcends politics … but it dates back to our founding fathers deciding that these positions were so important that they should be elected,“ Heed said.

Heed added, “When I’m in court, I stand up to represent the state or a victim, but nobody asks me if I’m a republican or a democrat first. They only want to know if I’m good, am I a good prosecutor, if I’m fair, and if I know what I’m doing …That’s why I’m both Democratic and Republican.”

One concern of Heed’s involved the voters’ knowledge of the justice system on the ballot. He explained that some voters are unaware of the candidate and law position they are voting for when they are focusing on a national election, such as the Presidential Election.

Heed said, “We’ve had a lot of County Attorneys who were good County Attorneys loose elections because they’re not well known by a lot of people” Heed added. “My effort to attain that recognition is important, so I win both sides of the battle. It also helps me with my efforts to get people to realize that this position is not a ‘political position.’ It’s a position of criminal justice and discretion and judgment.”

Although Heed’s goal was to attain recognition with both Democratic and Republican sides of the people and voters, he claimed that his campaign was “low key” as he continued to focus on his work as County Attorney. Heed, who is 62 years old, also shared that he has gotten involved with the community in other ways as both a professor and also through theater and other programs.

Members of Cheshire County’s major political groups, the Cheshire County Republicans and the Cheshire County Democrats agreed similarly to the idea of the County Attorney election as a less political election.

Terry Clark, of the Cheshire County Democrats and Keene City Council member, explained, “The county attorney’s position is typically less partisan-based than the legislature, as most county seats are.”

Clark added, “Peter is a competent lawyer who brings a lot of experience and level-headedness to the table. I have no problem with Peter being our county attorney because he approaches the job in a non-partisan way.”

From the other side of the political fence, Bill Hutwelker, chair of the Cheshire County Republican Committee, said, “I think it’s fine, especially in an office like this where it’s more competence than political. If both parties are supportive of the individual, it makes sense to me.” He added, “He would follow the law, which is neither Republican, nor Democrat.”

Hutwelker also explained  that Heed is not the first person to run against himself in this type of office. Hutwelker said, “It happens quite frequently, especially in County Office. For example, the Registrar of Deeds, Treasurer, Sheriff and County Attorney. That’s not unusual at all. In fact, it’s fairly common.”

Hutwelker said he did not believe Heed would use politics in his position, citing he has not seen Heed employ that tactic in the past. Hutwelker added, “I think he’s served the (Cheshire) County very well as County Attorney and I think that’s proven by the fact that there wasn’t a competitor for him, because he has done a good job.”

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