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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wide praise for Nashua resident Foster’s appointment to AG’s office

CONCORD – A bipartisan and eclectic mix of political, business and legal leaders on Wednesday endorsed the nomination of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Foster,
of Nashua, as the next
attorney general.

Meanwhile, Foster said that if he is named attorney general, he would for an “appropriate period of time” recuse himself from all matters related to the McLane law firm where he’s worked for the past 29 years. ...

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CONCORD – A bipartisan and eclectic mix of political, business and legal leaders on Wednesday endorsed the nomination of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Foster,
of Nashua, as the next
attorney general.

Meanwhile, Foster said that if he is named attorney general, he would for an “appropriate period of time” recuse himself from all matters related to the McLane law firm where he’s worked for the past 29 years.

“I want to make sure there is a perception out there that matters are being treated fairly,” he told the Executive Council.

On casino gambling, Foster said he would support the state taking greater steps to regulate expanded gambling should the Legislature decide to make it legal.

Foster, 53, had served as vice chairman of a gambling commission that then-Gov. John Lynch named in 2009 and it concluded the state lacked enough law enforcement and oversight resources to regulate a casino.

“I think the one thing members of the commission – regardless of what side they were on – agreed with was they felt it was important a robust, regulatory scheme was put in place,” Foster said.

At a two-hour public hearing before the Executive Council, only one person testified against Foster.

Foster would replace Attorney General Michael Delaney who is not seeking reappointment and will return to the private practice of law.

The five-person council is expected to confirm Gov. Maggie Hassan’s nomination of Foster on Wednesday at its next meeting.

Several who spoke Wednesday pointed to the decade of service in the Legislature as proof that Foster, 53, is the right apolitical choice to be the state’s top law enforcement officer.

Robert Clegg, a Hudson Republican, was Senate majority leader who recalled his decision that Foster, a Democrat, should chair the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“He was the type of person you could put in charge of an issue and you knew he was going to do the right thing,” Clegg said.

John Tobin, executive director of New Hampshire Legal Assistance, said Foster has the proper combination of humility, ethics and intellect that any governor would want to run one of the state’s largest law firms.

“At his core, Joe Foster is a modest man. He is quiet, competent and immensely intelligent,” Tobin said. “He is not going to be thinking about how is this going to make Joe Foster look.”

Catherine Corkery, state director of the New Hampshire Sierra Club, said the group had a concern since McLane law firm has for years represented Public Service of New Hampshire. The environmental group and PSNH have been adversaries in court and before state agencies over the three coal-fired plants the utility owns in the state.

“We are supporting his nomination; we just had this concern,” Corkery said.

Chris Dornin of Citizens for Justice Reform said he opposed Foster’s nomination due to Foster’s role in helping to write criminal crackdowns against sex offenders. Dornin called the original bill known as the Sexual Predators Act of 2005 “a power grab” against the judicial branch by seeking minimum mandatory crimes.

“Our group opposes all mandatory minimum sentences,” said Dornin, an advocate for prison inmates.

Foster served from 1995-98 in the House of Representatives and in the Senate from 2002-08.

In his first election, Foster won by a narrow margin over then-Republican Rep. Bea Francoeur but had little difficulty in winning after that point.

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