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Aug 3, 2016 4:12 PM

Forrester, Edelblut sign AFP pledge; criticize Gatsas and Sununu for not signing

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Republican gubernatorial candidates Jeanie Forrester and Frank Edelblut took aim Wednesday at two rivals for the nomination for not signing an influential conservative pledge.

Forrester, the state senator from Meredith, and Edelblut, the first-term state representative from Wilton, both signed the Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire 2016 pledge, which includes calls for cutting taxes and fees, passing a right to work law, and scrapping the federal health care law, better known as Obamacare.

Forrester told NH1 News that “it’s greatly disappointing,” that Executive Councilor Chris Sununu and Manchester Mayor didn’t sign the pledge.

“I think the people of New Hampshire want a conservative Republican in the Corner Office to turn around this state and lead it in the right direction. And I believe that when somebody won’t stand up and support this idea of being against a sales and income tax, it causes great concern to Republicans,” she added.

Edelblut told NH1 News “that’s a decision for them, whether or not they want to take the pledge. I think that that creates some ambiguity for the voters in terms of trying to find out what’s important to them, what they really stand for.”

Sununu spokesman David Abrams told NH1 News that "Chris has not signed the pledge because as governor he will work with the Legislature to achieve an affordable long-term solution for continued access to quality health care, with all ideas on the table, including Medicaid expansion with a work requirement. Chris is not prepared to abandon 41,000 New Hampshire people while those alternatives for affordable health care are considered."

Sununu did sign the pledge in 2014, when he successfully ran for re-election to the Executive Council.

Gatsas campaign manager Nate Lamb told NH1 News that “Ted Gatsas opposes ObamaCare and as Governor, one of his top priorities will be to create and implement a New Hampshire based solution to expand insurance coverage for Granite Staters. Once this NH solution is in place for the 46,000 people currently insured under Medicaid Expansion, we can then repeal Medicaid Expansion. But we need a state based solution for the nearly 50,000 Granite Staters insured through Medicaid Expansion before we repeal it."

What’s in the pledge

Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire state director Greg Moore touted that “this is a pledge to New Hampshire citizens.”

Moore added that the pledge is “focused on growing our economy. And it’s important issues like passing a right to work law, opposing tax increases, and ending Obamacare, which is undermining our health care system here in New Hampshire.”

Candidates signing also pledge to “uphold both the New Hampshire and United States Constitution.”

Democrats are critical of the pledge. Former New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Kathy Sullivan told NH1 News “it’s a bad pledge. It’s not New Hampshire driven.

She argued that it’s “a pledge concocted by two out of state billionaires, the Kochs, who have nothing to do with New Hampshire. They don’t know anything about New Hampshire. They don’t know anything about the needs, the issues that face New Hampshire.”

“Under this pledge, Republicans would do away with Medicaid expansion, which is helping at least 6,000 people with access to substance abuse coverage, at a time when we’re having an opioid crisis in this state,” Sullivan added.

Sullivan was referring to billionaire businessmen and philanthropist brothers David and Charles Koch, who founded AFP in 2004. The organization, which they continue to bankroll and steer, is arguably the most politically influential conservative third party group in the country.

But AFP New Hampshire honorary chairman Tom Thomson said “this is a pledge that I put together base on what my father started.”

His father was three-term governor Meldrim Thomson, Jr., who served from 1973 to 1970. The strong supporter of conservative political values ousted an incumbent GOP governor in a Republican primary in 1972 by pledging to oppose an income or sales tax. His pledge became a key component in Granite State politics. His son expanded on his father’s pledge when he came up with the AFP-NH pledge, which was first used in the 2010 election.

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