Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Connolly lands the endorsement of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, in Manchester on August 1, 2016

Aug 1, 2016 11:13 PM

Only on NH1 News: Connolly, Van Ostern, tout their union endorsements

NH1 News Political Director

MANCHESTER – David Lang it wasn’t “an easy choice,” but in the end the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire decided to endorse Mark Connolly for governor because “he going to challenge the status quo.”

And the Democratic gubernatorial candidate praised the endorsement by the influential labor union, which is a key player in Granite State politics, saying “they know what it takes to get people elected.”

WATCH: Connolly, Van Ostern, land major union endorsements

Lang and Connolly spoke with NH1 News soon after the candidate landed the union’s endorsement at an event at Manchester’s Fire Station Five on Webster Street. It was the only joint television interview the two men gave on Monday.

With two-term Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan challenging Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, this year’s race for the Corner Office is wide open. Connolly, who served nearly a decade as the state’s top financial watchdog, is facing off against Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern and former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand for the Democratic nomination.

Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, and state Rep. Frank Edlelblut are running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Lang, the PFFNH president, told NH1 News “there’s really good people that are running for governor in this race and this was not an easy choice. But I will tell you at the end of the day, when we put them on the scale, Mark Connolly kind of gravitates with the firefighters and the firefighters gravitated with Mark Connolly and we’re proud to stand with Mark and endorse Mark.”

“Mark Connolly was the candidate that stuck out on the Democratic side that shared a lot of the firefighters values,” Lang added. “He’s going to step up, he’s going to challenge the status quo, he’s going to work with firefighters to help make sure that we cross that next barrier, that next hurdle.”

Connolly told NH1 News that “every endorsement is important but this one obviously is very important to me for obvious reasons. One of which is that we have an opioid crisis in our state and these guys are out there all the time in terms of getting the people the treatment and the recovery.”

The September 13th primary is expected to be a low turnout contest, where organization and get out the vote efforts are crucial. Lang vowed that “our firefighters are going to be across the state of New Hampshire working really hard to help Mark get the Corner office.”

Asked how important the endorsement will be to his organizing efforts, Connolly said “you know these guys are veterans in so many ways. They know what it takes to get people elected and work for them. They don’t just endorse. They go out and work.”

“We have a really good ground game and we have good endorsements and we’re going to be there when it counts. We’ve built an organization and now we’re going to put it to the test in the next six weeks. We think we’re going to win this, we’re running very strong. It will be a close election. It will be a low turnout, but we’ll get our voters to the polls,” Connolly added.

Dueling union endorsements

As Connolly was getting endorsed by the PFFNH, Van Ostern announced that he was being backed by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local Union 118. The endorsement was first reported Monday morning by NH1 News.

Speaking one-on-one with NH1 News later on Monday, Van Ostern said “I’m really proud that today the Carpenters of New Hampshire endorsed our campaign. We’re proud to stand up for working families across New Hampshire. This is actually the ninth labor union that has endorsed our effort. Carpenters joined teamsters and teachers, postal workers and FairPoint workers, tens of thousands of working families standing together to keep our state moving forward.”

Asked about his get-out-the-vote efforts, Van Ostern told NH1 News “we’re proud to be building a broad grassroots team. Most of those Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders steering committees have endorsed me in the race, most of the Democratic state lawmakers across New Hampshire, because we know that we need to win together. It’s going to take a lot of people. Lot of grassroots effort, working together in order to keep our state moving forward. The truth is I think the reason carpenters and teachers and FairPoint workers are all standing together with us in this race is because I’ve been there, helping move our state forward the past four years and we all know how it important it is to keep the progress continuing.”

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