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Jun 9, 2016 11:31 PM

Forrester says Hassan 'absent governor'; Sununu 'irresponsible'

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanie Forrester repeatedly highlighted that she’s an “outsider,” and touted that unlike her rivals for the Corner Office, she’s “talking about issues.”

The state senator from Meredith also took shots at Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, whom she called “an absent governor.” And she slammed GOP rival Chris Sununu, charging that the much talked about comments he made on Wednesday showed his “immaturity” and “lack of wisdom.”

Forrester made her comments in a question and answer session Thursday with reporters in the Secretary of State’s office, minutes after officially filing her candidacy for governor.

Right off the bat, Forrester took a pledge.

"While some other guys want to get this job, I want to do this job. And so what I’m pledging today is if I become governor, I won’t run for any higher office. This will be my number one priority,” Forrester declared.

And she targeted Hassan, who’s running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte instead of bidding for a third term as governor.

“I think if you look at what’s happening in the state right now, we’ve got an absent governor who’s focused on running for higher office. We’ve got a crisis in this state and there are things that are in disarray,” Forrester said.

Forrester slams Sununu

Speaking to reporters on 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, Gatsas, another rival for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, called on Sununu to apologize.

Asked about Sununu’s comments, Forrester said “I have to say that I was disturbed and disappointed by hearing Chris’s comments that there has been no state or local leadership on this issue. To me it speaks to his immaturity and his lack of wisdom for saying something like that. And it really is quite surprising to me giving the political dynasty that he comes from. His father was governor and his brother was senator and you would think that he would have better words or better words to say, than something like that being that irresponsible and saying those types of things.”

Forrester went on to say that “we have led on this issue. I’ve been on the governor’s commission for the last four years. I have fought for funding for prevention education, which I think is critically important.”

Later, she railed against political dynasties and added that “somebody should not get a job based on their last name.”

The state Senate Finance Committee chair is trying to become the first Republican woman elected governor.

Forrester: ‘I don’t’ condone’ Trump’s remarks

Forrester also criticized Sununu and the other gubernatorial candidates for not revealing policy proposals.

“I was the last one to announce to get into this race and I was the first one out with an economic plan and today I’m also going to be releasing my government reform plan,” she said.

And she announced that next week she would reveal her plan on battling the state’s drug addiction crisis.

“I’m talking about issues. I’m talking about plans. I’m out there telling people who I am and what I’ll do and I’m not hearing that from the other candidates,” Forrester said.

Asked by NH1 News about presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s questioning of the impartiality of a federal judge overseeing the Trump University trial because of the Indiana born judge’s Mexican heritage, Forrester said “I don’t condone those remarks he made. I mean honestly, I don’t agree with Donald Trump on some of the issues that he’s espoused.”

The comments by Trump have been heavily criticized by many top Republicans, including U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who labeled them racist in nature.

Asked by NH1 News if she’s comfortable campaigning with Trump, Forrester shot back “absolutely. He is the Republican nominee and I will tell you he’s a much better candidate than Hillary will ever be.”

“I’ve said I will support the Republican nominee. I will support Donald Trump. But it’s not about Donald Trump. This campaign, my campaign, is about New Hampshire. It’s about working for the people of New Hampshire. It’s not about Donald Trump,” she continued.

While Sununu’s last name is a household word in New Hampshire and while Gatsas is fairly well known, the same cannot be said of Forrester. But Forrester said this won’t be an issue for her as she runs for governor.

“You look at Jeb Bush. How did that help him win in the state of New Hampshire,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a hurdle for me. I think name recognition can cut both ways.”

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