Connolly touts experience as voters shift attention to state races

HOLLIS – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Connolly wants New Hampshire voters to evaluate his business and public service record as they shift their attention back to local races in anticipation of the upcoming fall elections.

Connolly, the former Deputy Secretary of State and director of New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation, hopes his years in the largely nonpartisan securities regulation sector, success as an investment advisor and his humble New Hampshire roots will demonstrate his skills as a quality policymaker and executive.

"I believe the best governor for our state is someone who has a business background, someone who has been in the state for a long time and knows how to work across the line," he said during a visit to Hollis last week.

"And I believe my attitude about pragmatic, independent leadership is what we’ve done for 18 out of 20 years in terms of who we elect in this state," he added, referring to Democrats’ hold on the corner office since 1997, with the exception of Republican Craig Benson’s two-year term.

Connolly touted his duties while serving with respected Republican Secretary of State Bill Gardner. He also cited his record busting white collar crime – Tyco Corp. in 2002, then-privately owned Pennichuck Corp., on fraud charges and his work crafting a first-of-its-kind measure to prohibit investment salespeople from deceiving the elderly on financial planning.

Party voters will have to decide who is the most electable in the fall, Connolly said, making the pitch that he has the background that will attract independents and some moderate Republicans.

The party primary is Sept. 13.

"I’ve been relatively successful in my life, but I want to tell you I’m no different than who New Hampshire is," he said. "My parents divorced when I was five years of age, I had an older brother who served in the Marines, later in Vietnam, and my brother and I and my mother moved every single year until I was 13."

The New Hampshire native is still relatively unknown in his home state. About 75 percent of residents do not know him well enough to have any opinion of his candidacy, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released last month.

Nevertheless, the 60-year-old Connolly made a point to mention his age on several occasions while in Hollis, more to promote his knowledge about in-state education and job creation issues rather than to display his AARP card. He bluntly said his nearly four decades of experience matters and he called on Democrats to "judge me on what I’ve done."

A New Castle resident, Connolly, spoke to about 30 members of the Hollis Democrats on May 24. It was advertised that two other Democratic challengers, Colin Van Ostern and Steve Marchand, were going to speak to the committee.

Marchand, a former mayor of Portsmouth, has rescheduled for later this month while supporters and campaign staff spoke on behalf of Executive Councilor Van Ostern during the meeting.

There are at least two additional candidates who have filed to run as a Democrat for governor as of Wednesday, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Democrats acknowledged that the long presidential election season has captured most people’s attention, but with the national party nominations almost settled, it’s time to shift to state races.

And as that refocus begins over the next few months, Connolly plans to continue his push to make New Hampshire a "stronger state (where) the education system matches where the economy is going."

His campaign platform revolves around improving education by investing in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields to keep New Hampshire youth here to fill the advanced manufacturing and other high-tech sectors. To do so, he hopes to promote better partnerships between businesses and the university system.

"We need to be attacking where the economy’s going. And we’re doing it, but we’re not doing it well enough," he said.

Furthermore, he said, New Hampshire has to connect more with Boston, the economic hub of New England. Connolly supports passenger rail into southern New Hampshire and more diversify in the energy base, setting an ambitious goal to have half the state’s energy come from renewables by 2050.

Chris Garofolo can be reached at 594-6465, or @Telegraph_Chris.