“You know how politicians say this is the most important election of your lifetime? Well, this is the most important election of your lifetime,” said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maggie Hassan, while addressing a room of students and Keene residents last Tuesday in KSC’s Lantern room.
Hassan, former New Hampshire State Senator, who served as majority leader from 2008 to 2010, shared her views on education, the economy, and how the two are strongly connected. Hassan said she plans to restore funding to the University System of New Hampshire, which diminished by nearly 50% in recent years. She’s proposed a deal to UNH which would restore the majority of funding that has been lost, in exchange for a freeze in tuition for the next two years, and according to Hassan, they have responded quite positively. “Its something that they think they can do.”
Paul Vanzanten, an education major, said he thinks it’s extremely important to restore the lost funding. He said he sees education as the biggest difference between Hassan and her republican opponent Ovide Lamontagne. Although Vanzanten admits he hasn’t heard Lamontagne’s positions in his own words.
Hassan’s stop in Keene comes one week after her close primary battle with former fellow democratic State Senator Jackie Cilley. The primary left Hassan with just $16,395 remaining in campaign funds after spending over one million, according to WMUR.
Lamontagne easily defeated his opponent Kevin Smith in the NH GOP primary with nearly 69% of the vote, compared to Smith’s 30%.
During Lamontagne’s acceptance speech he said he supports a prosperity agenda, “based on fiscal responsibility, limited government, and an environment in which job creators and entrepreneurs can flourish, and represents a new kind of direction in New Hampshire Relying on free enterprise, not government entitlements.”
Republicans had a substantially larger turnout than Democrats in the September 11 primaries. According to Seacoast Online, 107,324 ballots were cast in the GOP primary, compared to 83,942 in the democratic race.
Hassan also spoke out on a number of social issues, such as marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose. In the first general election debate, the day after her speech in Keene, Hassan claimed her stances on such matters were not only morally in the right, but will also help the state’s economy. She said she believes businesses and workers are more likely to come to New Hampshire if the government supports such viewpoints.
Although Lamontagne is often attacked by Hassan for being pro-life, he pointed out in the debate that Roe V. Wade is the law of the land. “As a governor of New Hampshire, I should support the law of the land as it exists, and I will,” said Lamontagne.
Lamontagne said he plans to help out New Hampshire businesses by reducing the taxation of business profits from 8.5% to 8% over the next two years if elected.
Both candidates strictly oppose broad-based taxes and during their respective primaries signed a pledge promising to never sign them into law if elected governor.
The pledge was a contentious issue in Hassan’s primary battle with Cilley who notably refused to sign. The issue led to some infamous, horror movie style, television advertising, in which Cilley accused the other candidates of being “zombies to the pledge.”
During Hassan’s speech she explained how she became involved in politics. She credited her mother and father, both educators, for teaching her to “study really hard and stand up for what you believe in.”
Hassan also spoke of her 24 year old son Ben, who is severely disabled. She said her family was lucky to live in New Hampshire, where early intervention centers and schools with appropriate funds and expertise were available. Hassan said those resources allowed Ben to learn, and allowed her and her husband to learn how to help him learn.
During her stop in Keene, Hassan urged audience members to vote for candidates, in this and all elections, who share their priorities. She said in these tough economic times the government won’t be able to invest in everything they would like; so when it comes to making the tough decisions of where money is allocated, it’s important that your representative would put the things that you both agree hold the most weight first.
Hassan spoke of the current Republican legislature’s, as she views it, poor priorities, by touching on an example of the their decrease in the state’s cigaret tax, at the same time that educational funding dwindled. Hassan claimed that when serving under Governor Lynch, during her time as a state senator, she was forced to make tough decisions, but because of her priorities, was able to figure out a way to protect the state’s most vulnerable citizens while still balancing the budget.
According to an ARG poll released on September 17, Lamontagne currently has a two point lead over Hassan among likely, registered, New Hampshire voters.