Rye, New Hampshire, sisters Julie Tucker and Kate Catalano are running in the same state House race. Two Democrats, Jaci Grote and Kate Murray, are also in the four-way race for two seats. Credit: File | Portsmouth Herald

In this year’s four-way race for two spots in House Legislative District 24, covering New Castle and Rye, the two Republican candidates have known each other since birth — or rather, since one was 5 and the other was born.

Kate Catalano and Julie Tucker are sisters raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Both came to New Hampshire to attend UNH and settled in Rye — Tucker about 20 years ago, and Catalano in 2006.

The sisters are challenged in the District 24 race by Democrats Kate Murray, of New Castle, an incumbent, and Jaci Grote of Rye.

Catalano is an attorney and owner of Cornerstone Title, a full service title company she opened in Portsmouth more than 15 years ago. She worked for two law firms in Manchester after graduating from Boston University School of Law in 1989, and opened her own legal practice in Londonderry in 1993. She said she has led many clients through their home sale closings in New Castle and Rye, which has allowed her get to know residents she hopes to represent in Concord. With her husband Chuck Corradi, Catalano has two stepdaughters and four grandchildren under age of 6.

Tucker returned to New Hampshire as a regional planner for Stafford County after earning her master’s in regional planning from UMass Amherst. However, after a few years, her desire to work outdoors, designing and building gardens, led her to join the staff of Piscataqua Landscaping, where at one point she was its only female foreman. In the early 2000s, she ran her own business, Julia’s Garden, serving clients in New Castle and Rye. She currently works part-time for Jeff Carroll Landscaping in Rye.

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When Tucker learned there were no Republicans planning to run, she shared her disappointment about it with her sister, who gave it some thought and said, “I’ll do it.”

“It was the last thing on my mind that she would run, but I was glad she said she would,” Tucker said.

The two share core ideas about the role of state government and nurturing the New Hampshire business environment, but they have different educational backgrounds, professional experiences and knowledge bases.

“We work well together, but we won’t always agree,” Catalano said.

Tucker cites two top priorities if elected: Getting people “the facts” so they can make the best decisions for their community and local control. By going door-to-door, Tucker learned there are still issues on which voters have lingering questions – clean, safe drinking water, for example. A small handful of people have asked her about it in general terms, such as “Is our water OK?”

For more than a year, she has served as a citizen representative on the state’s Commission on the Seacoast Cancer Cluster. She has found serving on the commission has allowed her to increase her own knowledge of the situation, as the commission formulates its recommendations to the Legislature.

Tucker is an active volunteer for the Rye Public Library. She is also a long-time licensed wildlife rehabilitator with N.H. Fish and Game, along with her husband of 20 years, Joe, who also serves as a board member of the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, Maine.

Both candidates share a sense of civic responsibility. Catalano is a board member of Seacoast Pathways, a nonprofit that runs a support center with peer support and job training at North Church Parish House three days a week for people recovering from mental illness.

Catalano has hosted fundraisers at her home for Women Aid, Families First, the Pease Greeters and Gather, and she said she prefers this kind of direct support for local organizations. By inviting friends and acquaintances for an evening when they can learn about needs in the community, she has helped raise funds and introduced people to nonprofits needing volunteers. Catalano has also served on the board of Seacoast Crime Stoppers for more than 10 years.

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If a committed group of citizens has the facts needed to make the best decisions, the state should have faith and cede local control, Tucker said: “I want to represent that attitude in Concord, that we don’t need blanket regulations for our community.”

When asked for an example of how the state has infringed on local control, she described a 2017 law passed by the Legislature mandating that municipalities allow in-law apartments to be added to residences. She did not oppose the law in opposition to in-law apartments. “It’s the fact that the state told us how to run our community,” she said.

Catalano and Tucker support Senate Bill 193, known as the “school choice bill,” which would allow for public tax dollars to be used by parents for educating their children outside of public school, including private and religious schools, and homeschooling. They believe the bill would allow low-income families to send their children to the school that is right for the child; a privilege they believe is only available now for families with the means to pay for it.

Tucker’s goal for communities to have more local control touches on education and the economy: “I’m big on the trades, and there are plenty of those jobs here.”

She met her husband Joe, a contractor, on the job when he was building a home where she was landscaping. Catalano emphasizes trades and vocational training as an economic engine. Community colleges should be able to offer education at a reasonable rate to keep a thriving workforce of tradespeople employed locally, such as plumbers, electricians and masons, she said.

“We need to keep New Hampshire’s economy viable and thriving like it is,” Catalano said. “Part of that is because of the tax structure. Money should stay in people’s pockets. She used the example of her own business, with five employees. When the state business tax was first reduced in 2016, she gave raises to them, she said.

As far as raising the state’s minimum wage and implementing paid family medical leave, Catalano and Tucker agree these matters are between employers and employees. They believe businesses need to do what they can to remain viable and retain a good workforce.

Catalano said she is running as a small business owner because “most of the people I know in Rye and New Castle either own a small business or work for a small business.”

Both of these candidates will participate in the Rye Civic League’s State Candidates Night at Rye Junior High School on Wednesday, Oct. 17 from 6:30 to 9 p.m., and at the New Castle Candidates’ Forum at the Recreation Building Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m.

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