For 14 of the past 16 years, a Democrat has been governor of New Hampshire. If the party wants to continue its recent dominance of the corner office, it will select Exeter’s Maggie Hassan as its gubernatorial nominee Tuesday. The former Senate majority leader offers the most electable package of experience, perspective and temperament of the three Democratic candidates seeking to succeed four-term Gov. John Lynch.
It’s rare that voters have three distinct choices to make when it comes to whether New Hampshire should enact a broad-based income tax. But that’s the case with Hassan and fellow Democratic challengers Jackie Cilley, of Barrington, and Bill Kennedy, of Danbury.
Kennedy is an unabashed backer of an income tax along with several other initiatives that render him unelectable in November, including support of full legalization of marijuana. While his succinct positions and fresh enthusiasm are commendable, Kennedy’s lack of political experience is palpable. It would undoubtedly limit his effectiveness as governor.
Like Kennedy, Cilley doesn’t mince words, unless it has anything to do with an income tax, an issue on which she’s too cutely playing both ends against the middle. It’s a strategy that comes across as disingenuous, at best.
For the record, while Cilley isn’t supporting an income tax, she thinks we should all talk about it, just in case we decide it’s a good idea, which then, we are left to assume, she would think it’s just dandy too.
Here’s a real safe bet. No one voting for Jackie Cilley on Tuesday has an ounce of ambivalence about whether New Hampshire needs an income tax. What does that say about her prospects in November? Ask Mark Fernald.
Hassan embraces the pledge to veto a broad-based sales or income tax. She’s wise enough to know it’s not going to happen so there’s no need to pussyfoot around it.
During her six years in the Senate, Hassan compiled an impressive record of achievement. Many senators spend many years in the august chamber without attaining the leadership positions and respect Hassan did while she was there. First elected in 2004, Hassan was blown out of office in 2010 when the majority of Democrats, even if they were running for cemetery trustee, lost.
It says a lot about Hassan’s leadership abilities that soon after being elected to the Senate, she was recognized by her colleagues as someone capable of influencing others within her party and forging constructive relationships with members of the Republican Party.
Those qualities will be crucial the next two years as it is more than likely Republicans will retain control of the House and Senate.
Hassan recognizes the next biennial budget is likely to be one of the more difficult to agree upon in a long time as the state struggles to support education, encourage business expansion and provide fundamental human services with continued limited resources.
Under these circumstances, Democrats must ask themselves which candidate offers the best hope of defending the party’s core values? With a style that values cooperation over confrontation, Hassan most closely mirrors the successful leadership approach of Lynch, who is still viewed positively from both sides of the political aisle.
Above all, Hassan appreciates the formidable challenges facing the state during the next two years. Many of the debates in Concord are likely to be strident and contentious. It would be to New Hampshire’s benefit to have Hassan’s demeanor and experience leading the state.