Portsmouth Community Radio - Get to know the gubernatorial candidates

PORTSMOUTH – Before going to the polls Tuesday, Sept. 11 to vote in the state primary election, get to know the candidates on Portsmouth Community Radio, WSCA 106.1 FM.

With Gov. John Lynch stepping aside after eight years in the Statehouse, the spot as state of New Hampshire’s CEO is up for grabs. On the Democratic side of the primary ticket are former Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan of Exeter, former state Sen. Jackie Cilley of Barrington and veteran Bill Kennedy of Danbury. Candidates vying for the Republican vote and interviewed on WSCA include former chairman of the state Board of Education Ovide Lamontagne of Manchester and former assistant director of New Hampshire’s Division for Juvenile Justice Services Kevin Smith of Litchfield.

Former state senator Burt Cohen of New Castle has interviewed all three contenders for the Democratic primary on “The Burt Cohen Show” on WSCA.  

There are significant differences in the candidates,” Cohen said. “To me the big questions primary voters should ask is about how we tax citizens.”

During Cohen’s on-air interviews the pledge not to institute a broad-based tax on the citizens of New Hampshire is clearly an area where candidates differ. Cohen speculates that no candidate has been elected the governor of New Hampshire without taking the pledge.

Hassan , 54, took a pledge against a sales or income tax saying the state must focus on the current budget and economic challenges. “I don’t think we should be adding more taxes. I would veto it if it comes to my desk as governor,” she said.

Cilley, 56, and former Whittemore School of Business professor at the University of New Hampshire, did not take the pledge and vows that these types of pledges simply shut down the conversation on real solutions.

“We need all the tools in our toolbox at our disposal,” she said. She likened the pledge to a carpenter coming to your home to work on your kitchen cabinets, taking a hammer and nails out of his toolbox and saying “I’m not going to use these.”


When it comes to finding another avenue for revenue in the state, candidate Bill Kennedy is in favor of implementing an income tax. “I’d like to see adjustments to the property tax,” Kennedy said. “It seems the problems are downshifted to the local property taxes. I see the income tax as the fairest most equitable.”


In addition to the tax pledge, candidates talk on air about expanded gambling, education reform, jobs, reinvigorating New Hampshire’s economy, legalizing medical marijuana, and the Northern Pass project to name a few. To learn more, listen to the “The Burt Cohen Show” archives at http://portsmouthcommunityradio.org/audioarchive/public-affairs#burt. Kennedy and Hassan were interviewed on July 17 and Cilley on June 26.


On Portsmouth Community Radio’s “Radiogazette,” attorney and former Portsmouth City Councilor Charlie Griffin talks to the Republican candidates for governor about restoring jobs, the economy, health care, balancing the state’s budget, social issues and gambling.


When it comes to balancing the state budget, Smith said he intends to make it a priority in his first 100 days in office. “I will start doing it right from the start. We need a performance-based budget. We need to prioritize our budget based on how programs are doing,” he said.


Lamontagne has a zero-based budgeting approach and seeks to restructure state government as a way to control costs, identify savings and augment spending.


When it comes to expanded gambling in New Hampshire both candidates are in favor. Lamontagne only sees expanded gambling working in New Hampshire if it’s at one site – Rockingham Park in Salem.


“That’s a historic site that already has gaming,” he said. “We can learn from our experience there and see if other sites might be appropriate. You can’t start three to four in New Hampshire.”


When it comes to putting the revenue captured from expanded gambling to good use, Lamontagne wants to see it put toward existing projects and not to expanding the state’s government. “We want to make sure revenues are put toward existing commitments such as expanding I-93” and education funding, he said.


Smith said if the state commits to expanded gambling it should be open to more than one site and not limited to Rockingham Park. He’s endorsed legalized gambling at up to two casinos and like Lamontagne believes the state’s share of the profits should go toward transportation and public schools.


Griffin said there is little difference between the two candidates except their take on taxation and the fact Lamontagne has a narrower view of expanded gambling in New Hampshire.

“The choice voters face is whether to vote for a candidate who has the backing of the party establishment but who has previously lost in two attempts at elective office or whether to vote for a fresh face who has not lost before,” Griffin said. “Both Smith and Lamontagne seem well qualified, competent, articulate and committed to doing what they believe best for the citizens of New Hampshire.”


Audio archives for the interviews with Lamontagne and Smith can be found at http://portsmouthcommunityradio.org/audioarchive/public-affairs#RGAZET. Lamontagne was interviewed Aug. 10 and Smith on July 27.


Polling times and locations are different in communities throughout New Hampshire on Tuesday, Sept. 11. Check with your local town clerk, visit your town’s Web site or visit the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Web site at http://sos.nh.gov/ for polling information.


“There's a lot at stake in this election,” Cohen said. “Voting in the primary is as important as voting in the general election.”  


WSCA is an all volunteer, non-commercial radio station located at 909 Islington St., Suite 1, Portsmouth, N.H. 03801, offering a wide variety of programming by and for the community. Tune in to 106.1 LP FM. For more information and live streaming visit portsmouthcommunityradio.org.  Thank you for listening.