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Friday, June 15, 2012

Governor’s race taking shape, as several candidates file for office Thursday

CONCORD – Three major candidates for governor, two Republicans and a Democrat, all said they would be more hands-on than outgoing Gov. John Lynch, the popular, four-term Democrat who’s retiring this fall.

Republican candidate Ovide Lamontange, of Manchester, said Lynch has been friendly and accessible but has failed to engage the Legislature or make state government more efficient and business-friendly.

“I think you have to be a hands-on governor, and I will be,” said Lamontagne, 55.

GOP primary rival Kevin Smith, of Litchfield, said he has the experience Lamontagne doesn’t, serving in the House of Representatives, on a governor’s staff and working in a state agency.

“I have a record of getting things done in state government and moving the ball down the field,” said Smith, 34. “People want a leader; they want someone who is going be proactive.”

Democratic candidate Jackie Cilley, of Barrington, said New Hampshire is no longer a welcoming place for businesses to come or expand.

The obsession of political leaders with opposing broad-based taxes has led to deep cuts in state aid to higher education and infrastructure, she said.

“We are destroying our New Hampshire advantage, and that is a choice,” said Cilley, 60.

Cilley said a working-class background growing up in Berlin sets her apart from her primary rival, Maggie Hassan, of Exeter.

“We come from very different backgrounds. What I bring to this is an understanding of working families and Main Street businesses,” Cilley said.

Hassan plans to officially sign up Friday, which is the deadline for all candidates seeking federal, legislative and county offices.

Lamontagne, Smith and Hassan have all promised that they would veto a sales or income tax. Cilley has refused any promise, yet does not plan to endorse one in this campaign.

Rather, Cilley said the next governor must promote a dialogue on the state’s revenue needs for the future.

A third, lesser-known Democratic candidate, Bill Kennedy, of Danbury, has proposed a 4 percent income tax with some proceeds to try to lower local property taxes.

Cilley noted that some national Republicans recently called upon congressional leaders to leave tax increases on the table as part of a global deal with President Barack Obama to reduce the federal deficit and debt.

“We are starting to see the end to pandering and pledge politicking in this state and across the country, and it’s time. It’s time,” Cilley said.

If elected, Lamontagne has proposed a 60-day moratorium on new rules and would order all regulations affecting business be subjected to a cost benefit analysis.

He would move to amend or repeal any state regulations that were unnecessarily onerous for business, he added.

“Government needs not to be in the way; it needs to get out of the way,” Lamontagne said.

Smith’s plans include significant cuts in the state’s two main business taxes on corporate profits and business activity, as well as a plan to legalize casino gambling as long as a stiff regulatory regime were first put in place.

This is Lamontagne’s fourth run in 16 years for major office and the first time that he has been installed as the early favorite.

Lamontagne nearly beat Kelly Ayotte, of Nashua, to become the GOP nominee for a U.S. Senate seat that Ayotte won in 2010.

Lamontagne pledged to run a positive campaign and called upon all his opponents to do the same.

“I don’t think people want to hear candidates attacking each other on a personal level,” Lamontagne said. “They want to hear solutions, a candidate’s plan.”

Smith said this race would be spirited but stay on the issues, and that whoever wins will have the support of Republicans across the board.

And Smith dismissed the idea that after a record eight straight years with a Democratic chief executive, the governor’s office was sure to return to Republican hands.

“I think that’s crazy talk,” Smith said. “I think it is going to be an extremely competitive general election.”

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@KLandrigan).