Published DateFor governor we enthusiastically endorse Republican Ovide Lamontagne.
New Hampshire governors have limited power and authority, and what typically comes out of the Corner Office is more approach and attitude than programs or projects.
And given the choice between a small government, pro-business candidate whose conservative views on social issues we see as a liability, but not a threat, or his opponent, Democrat Maggie Hassan, a former state senator with a history of proposing new taxes and is tone deaf to business interests, we'll take Lamontage.
For perspective on our decision to back a conservative Republican, consider we endorsed Democrat Carol Shea-Porter for Congress, and support President Obama in his reelection bid.
As we wrote in last week's editorial, we agree with Shea-Porter (and Obama) on the big issues: we support ObamaCare, see no reason why rich people shouldn't kick in a few extra tax dollars, and reject Tea Party conservatives who took Grover Norquist's pledge to never raise taxes and who actively work to repeal same-sex marriage and take away the right of women to choose.
How does that view square with endorsing Lamontagne?
With a powerful legislature and executive council, the governor in New Hampshire is more umpire than policy-maker, and Gov. John Lynch, the longest running and arguably the most popular governor in our state's history, is case in point.
What's his legacy? What comes to mind is the change in the dropout age from 16 to 18 he championed, and that he moved heaven, earth and the DOT to open the Kanc after Hurricane Irene. Accomplishments for sure, but not game-changers, nor far-reaching.
Compared to other states, New Hampshire's governors are weak. They propose budgets, but as every Democrat is painfully aware, budgets are mostly determined by the legislature. New Hampshire governors can't even make appointments without consent from the Executive Council.
Here's the scorecard on Hassan and Lamontagne as we see it.
The Business and Industry Association recently analyzed the voting records of all New Hampshire's state senators, and concluded Hassan was tied for last in supporting legislation important to business interests.
This is closer to home, and it's a story we've told before, but it was Hassan's committee three years ago that killed legislation sponsored by state Sen. Jeb Bradley, and Hassan's opponent in the primary, Jackie Cilley, to reform the labor department. This legislation came about because The Conway Daily Sun fought the labor department's onerous revenue-gathering tactics of fining small businesses tens of thousands of dollars for basically minor, paperwork violations.
Similar common-sense legislation was passed last year, which means the labor department must now issue warnings instead of fines for minor violations that do not affect employees. Hassan, however, still won't support it, and said as much at an editorial board this summer with the Sun.
She did, however, co-sponsor the infamous expansion of the LLC tax on small businesses, which was brutally criticized and junked; she also supported a wide menu of new taxes including the regressive surcharge on car registrations.
Lamontagne's views on small government and business are well known, but here's why we're not concerned about what Hassan says about his approach to health care and his ultra-conservative views on social issues, even though we oppose them.
Part of the narrative spun by Democrats is he will reject ObamaCare, specifically the so-called insurance exchanges paid for by the federal government. It's true he wants instead to pressure the feds to give New Hampshire a block grant for the state to set up its own version of an exchange, but also admits he will accept the federal money if his plan fails.
The reason is obvious. If he rejects ObamaCare, the feds will pull millions of dollars it already gives New Hampshire for Medicaid, which would be a financial disaster for the state.
The harshest scare ad run by Hassan charges Lamontagne will take away women's reproductive rights and repeal same-sex marriage.
Lamontagne clearly states he is against both, and we don't doubt he'd sign legislation banning both if he had a chance, but that chance is remote.
The legislature is made up the Senate and the House, and the Tea Party conservatives, who we agree with their critics who call them nutty, dominate the House. All the laughable bills we heard about the last few years, like the Magna Carta bill, which required all legislation to find its origin in the 1,200-year-old document, originated — then died — in the House.
That understanding is important because none of the real crazy legislation passed the Senate, the gateway to the governor's desk. As pro-choice, level-headed, Republican Sen. Jeb Bradley told us recently in his editorial board with Sun, it is very difficult to take away rights (same-sex marriage, women's right to choose) once they are conveyed. And Lamontagne, a pro-lifer, but also a realist, told us "I will uphold the law, and Roe v. Wade is the law."
The governor's race is a story of two experienced candidates, both of whom sit on the edges of their own parties. In two years, the political and economic landscape could be totally different, but for this election we'll take the pro-business candidate over the one who likes to raise taxes.