Mark Connolly speaks with reporters after filing his candidacy for governor, on June 9, 2016

Jun 9, 2016 1:06 PM

Connolly files for governor, jumps into Gatsas-Sununu drug crisis dispute

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Mark Connolly touted his experience and his “progressive values” as he filed for governor on Thursday.

And he called executive councilor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu’s criticism of the state and local response to the heroin and opioid crisis “unfortunate.”

The former state representative who’s best known for his eight years as New Hampshire’s top financial watchdog spoke with reporters minutes after filing his candidacy at the Secretary of State’s office.

Connolly highlighted his Granite States roots and his long record, saying “I’m a New Hampshire native. I’m 60 years of age. I have some 38 years’ experience in the private and public sectors. I worked 15 in this building as a department head. I’m very proud of my record as director of securities regulation.”

Connolly said that “education to me is the most important issue facing our state in terms of our development and our economy.”

Among his proposals: “We need to fully fund kindergarten. If you don’t get the kids early, you often times lose them.”

Asked how he would pay for all his proposals, Connolly said “our economy’s growing. I think we have an opportunity because of the increase in our economy, and increased revenues, to figure out what we’re going to do with these revenues. I’ve taken the position I’m not in favor a broad based tax or sales tax. I want to work with our existing revenues to try and figure out prioritize what we need to do as a state”

Wednesday former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, a rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, said "I'm the most progressive candidate in the race."

Asked by NH1 News to react to those comments, Connolly answered "everybody’s going to talk about themselves. I just talk about myself. I’m a businessman with progressive values."

Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, the third major Democrat running for the Corner Office, files his candidacy on Friday.

Connolly criticizes Sununu

Speaking to reporters Wednesday minutes after filing his candidacy for the Corner Office, Sununu was asked about the state’s efforts battling the heroin and opioid epidemic.

“No issue has had more lack of leadership, yet required more attention, that the opioid crisis. We have a thousand people, a thousand people, dead in the last two years. Over a thousand dead from this crisis. That’s a thousand families torn apart. That’s tens of thousands more that have drained their bank accounts and their 401Ks trying to get help for loved ones. This is an absolute crisis across the state and we’ve had no leadership in Concord, no leadership at the local level,”

That comment quickly triggered a counter attack from Manchester police chief Nick Willard, who took to Twitter to write “I can't believe this candidate would make such an idiotic statement. We, in Manchester have lead from the beginning!”

Minutes after Willard’s tweet, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas took to Twitter, saying he’s proud of Manchester’s “leadership on this issue. Disappointing that others refuse to acknowledge it.”

And in a statement and a subsequent interview with NH1 News, Sununu’s rival for the GOP gubernatorial nomination called on Sununu to apologize.

Unprompted, Connolly reacted Thursday, saying “unfortunately Councilor Sununu yesterday made a statement about how he saw the response to the opioid crisis. I think we’ve done a good job as a state. There’s obviously better work we can do. I think we’ve addressed this at the state level, at the municipal level.”

Watch/Read: Gatsas-Sununu war of words over drug crisis

A firm yes on Syrian refugees

Following the Paris terrorist attacks last November, Gov. Maggie Hassan made headlines in becoming the only Democratic governor in the country to call for a temporary ban on Syrian refugees into New Hampshire until the federal vetting process “is as strong as possible” to make sure the American people stay safe.

Monday, as she filed her candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Hassan said that she felt communication between federal agencies and the states taking in some of the Syrian refuges had improved. But Hassan, questioned repeatedly by reporters, wouldn’t say if her position had changed

Asked by NH1 News if he’s comfortable allowing Syrian refugees into the Granite State, Connolly answered “yes. I think we’re a state and a country of immigrants.

“As long as the procedures are in place, I have no opposition at all to welcoming anybody of any race into our state,” he added.

With family, friends, and supporters looking on, Mark Connolly files for governor, on June 9, 2016

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