Let the debate begin: Kelly and Marchand face off

Democrats vie for chance to take on Sununu

Supporters and staffers with the Kelly and Marchand campaigns hold signs in front of the Nashua Public Library before Monday night’s debate.

NASHUA – Democratic gubernatorial candidates Steve Marchand and Molly Kelly squared off Monday night in front of a packed house at the Nashua Public Library, each trying to prove their liberal bona fides to the city’s Democratic voters.

Marchand, the former Portsmouth mayor, is positioning himself as a progressive firebrand in the mold of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as he came out swinging for state-funded campaign financing, state-funded abortions and turning New Hampshire into a Sanctuary State for illegal immigrants.

“If we do not lead, no one else will,” Marchand said.

Kelly, a former state senator who has garnered the endorsements of party heavy hitters like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, pushed back at the implication she is not progressive enough to take on Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in the fall. She said her values haven’t changed throughout her political career.

“Being progressive and being bold is not new to me,” she said. “I have been tested, and I am ready to be that leader.”

Staff photo by Damien fisher Hundreds of people turn out Monday night to watch Steve Marchand and Molly Kelly debate.

As recently as 2014, Marchand was the state chair for No Labels, a non-partisan group dedicated to issues like balancing the budget and securing Social Security and Medicare. By 2016, Marchand was making his first run for governor as a progressive, and No Labels was involved in handing then-candidate Donald Trump an award as a “problem solver.”

Both Kelly and Marchand scored with the crowd of hundreds of people by involving Trump’s name, and linking the president to Sununu. With little separating the candidates on the broad-stroke issues, the race could come down to style. Marchand plans an aggressive brand of politics, saying it is time for Democrats to go on the offensive.

“We gotta make the argument, we got to do it forcefully,” he said. “When you sound apologetic, it implies you have something to be apologetic for.”

Kelly countered that while she doesn’t give on her core principles, she wants to build a coalition to get things done. That takes listening to everyone, including Republicans.

“Treating people with dignity and respect, that’s the core of politics,” she said.

Staff photo by Damien Fisher Molly Kelly

Both Kelly and Marchand support getting rid of Sununu’s business tax breaks. Marchand goes a step further, saying he will not sign onto the no sales or income tax pledge for New Hampshire.

“The pledge is a remnant of the past,” he said.

Under pressure from Kelly, Marchand said he would not look to institute a sales or income tax, but instead raise revenue by eliminating the tax cuts, something Kelly also supports doing. Marchand also supports raising the gas tax by 4 cents a

gallon.

Both support legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana for recreational use, both support tighter gun control laws, including banning AR-15 type weapons. While and both support greater access to abortion, Marchand favors public funding for the procedure. Kelly is a long-time abortion rights advocate, and abortion provider in New Hampshire do not turn away women who cannot pay.

Staff photos by Damien fisher Steve Marchand.

“All women, regardless of your income, will have access to a safe, legal abortion, period,” Kelly said.

They both said they would reverse the law striking down the concealed carry permit requirement, and reverse Sununu’s vetoes on environmental bills they say slow down New Hampshire’s progress toward renewable energy. Kelly and Marchand want to see more done to make college affordable, though they would not back free tuition. They also agreed that a commuter rail system connecting to Boston would help attract young people to live in New Hampshire.

The primary election is set for Sept. 11.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.