Lamontagne: 'There is No 47 Percent in NH'
Gubernatorial candidates clash on the economy, jobs and social issues in first debate.
For more than a week, Ovide Lamontagne and Maggie Hassan have attempted to paint a clear picture of one another, to members of their respective parties, to the media and, most importantly, to the New Hampshire voters.
Hassan has claimed that Lamontagne is lock step with the Tea Party and its ultra-conservative fiscal agenda, and Lamontagne has illustrated Hassan as a tax-toting liberal who, while in the state senate, led the Democratic-run legislature in creating a nearly insurmountable state deficit.
This morning, each had their first real opportunity to confront the other in person, and to defend themselves, when they met at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College for the first of several gubernatorial debates leading up to the General Election on Nov. 6.
Later in the nearly one-hour debate each candidate was asked about claims made by Mitt Romney at a private event that were recently leaked to the press where the GOP presidential nominee claims 47 percent of the country is dependent on government assistance.
"The governor of New Hampshire needs to be a governor for all the people, and there's no 47 percent in New Hampshire as far as I'm concerned," said Lamontagne. "Every citizen deserves to have a responsible government, one that understands the limits of the constitution and the power of the free markets and can lead us into a new era of prosperity, and I'll be that governor."
Hassan, however, said the social agenda of Lamontagne and fellow Republicans makes that goal impossible.
"I have a record of reaching across the aisle," said Hassan, "but you can't be the governor for everybody in New Hampshire if you deny a woman the right to make her own health care decisions."
"It's the law of the land," retorted Lamontagne, referring to legalized abortion, "and as governor of New Hampshire, I'll be duty-bound to enforce the law of the land, and I will ... the law of the the land provides for abortion. That's not changing."
The exchange was one of many opportunities the candidates used to get their social agendas across to the electorate. As both candidates noted at various times during the debate, some social issues and economic issues go hand-in-hand, though Hassan said many civil liberties, particularly gay marriage, are pivotal to attracting new business, while Lamontagne said he wasn't so sure that was the case.
Despite the conversation drifting at times, the debate moderators continuously brought the discussion back to the economy, jobs, taxes and most notably the middle class.
Hassan, who argued for the Affordable Care Act and additional funding for Medicare, said that the development and maintenance of infrastructure, particularly roads and bridges, was necessary to draw business to New Hampshire, tasks she said can't be accomplished while slashing taxes.
Lamontagne, who took the opposite approach on the Affordable Care Act, didn't disagree with Hassan on the needs for infrastructure, but said those needs must be met while reducing taxes and regulatory burdens on small businesses.
"We've seen government grow too far, and too fast," said Lamontagne, "and as a result for New Hampshire families, particularly the middle class, there has been a squeeze ... in terms of the pressure on business and a squeeze on their jobs, and economic prosperity is the future to supporting the middle class, which means government has to create that environment for competition to occur, for new businesses to be created for new opportunities or our citizens."
"The great recession has been a terrible thing for the middle class," said Hassan, "and one of my concerns and one of the things I hope people will think about and listen to is much of what Ovide is talking about with his agenda is a return to the very economic policies that brought on the great recession.
"We need to make sure that our middle class families have opportunity so they can compete," she added. "That's why I'm running for governor."
The final question of the debate centered on what type of business each candidate would start if they had the opportunity.
For Lamontagne, the answer was simple. He'd owned a construction business early in his professional.
"If I were to do it again, I'd be a contractor," he said. "I love working with my hands."
For Hassan, well, the electorate found she has fondness for canines.
"I would either open a gym or I would raise dogs," she said. "You know, when in doubt, get a dog."
Among the many other topics discussed, Lamontagne and Hassan also clashed on education funding and the structure of the state liquor commission.
The debate was a partnership of the NH Institute of Politics, the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, NH Union Leader, NH Public Radio and NH Public Television, and that it was underwritten by Lincoln Financial Group