Steinhauser: Forrester announces economic plan, takes aim at rivals and Hassan
CONCORD – State Sen. Jeanie Forrester took aim at rivals for the GOP gubernatorial nomination and at Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan as she unveiled her economic proposals which she touted as “An Economic Plan for the People.”
At a news conference Monday at the Legislative Office Building across the street from the State House, the Republican lawmaker from Meredith also touted her conservative credentials as she spelled out her economic plan, saying “I’d like to present my bold conservative vision for New Hampshire.”
Forrester added that “we need a wholesale change in philosophy after 18 years of Democratic control in Concord…. we need conservative change.”
With Hassan challenging GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte this year instead of running for a third term for the Corner Office, the race for Granite State governor is wide open. Forrester is one of four Republican candidates, along with state Rep. Frank Edelblut and two much better known contenders, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas. Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, Mark Connolly, a former state representative who served for years as the state's top financial watchdog, and former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, are running for the Democratic nomination.
Forrester seemed to take a shot at her rivals of what she says is a lack of policy discussion, saying “I’ve been surprised that there’s been so little dialogue about public policy in the campaign for governor. And I actually believe that it should be a requirement for candidates to explain what they will do in office.”
Later, asked by NH1 News if she thinks her rivals aren’t speaking out enough about their policy positions, Forrester said “yes, I do.”
After the news conference, Edelblut chief strategist Brent Littlefield returned fire at Forrester.
“Longtime politician Jeanie Forrester's plan is long on pretty pictures and short on solutions. It also lacks someone with experience to implement it. Frank Edelblut knows that selling New Hampshire is not about slogans it is about the ability to talk with job creators on their level about real issues impacting the economy,” he said in a statement.
Forrester also criticized Hassan, saying “I’m running for this office not because I want to get the job, I want to do the job. And I think New Hampshire needs to elect somebody who’s focused on the job, focused laser sharp on New Hampshire and its economy, not looking at the next higher office that they can run for.”
Asked for specifics on where she thinks Hassan’s been AWOL, Forrester said “whether it’s the heroin epidemic or mental health, we’re having issues getting money out to these programs, and so we’ve appropriated all this money things are not getting done. I think that’s because there’s a lack of leadership in the Corner Office and a lack of focus.”
But Democratic state Sen. Andrew Hosmer disagreed.
“I wish that the Legislature had heeded the call of Gov. Hassan last fall to pass a comprehensive package to combat the heroin and opioid crisis and spent some of this year’s projected $80 million surplus to stem and reverse the tide of this terrible epidemic,” he wrote in a recent op-ed.
And Hassan communications director Aaron Jacobs told NH1 News that "as another recent poll showed, Granite Staters strongly approve of Governor Maggie Hassan's leadership that is bringing together members of both parties to get results for New Hampshire's families and small businesses.”
The plan Forrester unveiled contains three programs which she said will “kick start the economy.”
The first is “New Hampshire is Open for Business,” a series of policy ideas she said will make it easier to start a new business in the state. The second is “New Hampshire Means Business,” policy ideas she said are designed to make it easier to run an existing business in the Granite State. The third program is “New Hampshire Works!,” which are policy ideas designed to make it easier “to earn a 21st century living in the Granite State.”
Taking questions from reporters, Forrester criticized Hassan for at first opposing last year’s business tax cuts that were passed by in the State House and signed into law by the governor. And Forrester said “I think that there’s more that we can do but we’re headed in the right direction.”
She said that “ I’ve always supported Right to Work, I think it’s an important issue in New Hampshire. Unfortunately it doesn’t ever seem to get passed the governor’s desk.”
And she added that if she was governor and the House and Senate passed a Right to Work bill, “absolutely I would support it.”
But on a state minimum wage, Forrester said ‘I would not” support it.
“I believe that government should stay out of what business does,” she added.
That stance triggered a response from the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
“Jeanie Forrester’s outrageous opposition to raising the minimum wage reveals she’s sticking to the same failed, discredited trickle-down economic policies of the past that devastated our economy and the middle class,” NHDP Chairman Ray Buckley said in a statement.
Asked about social issues, Forrester turns back to economy
Democrats have won nine out of the last ten gubernatorial elections in New Hampshire. Asked why, Forrester repeated what she said when she first announced for governor in Meredith on March 30, saying “we’re not putting out the right candidate. We’re not putting out somebody who can that office. And I believe I am the candidate to win that office.”
One area Forrester did not want to weigh on was social issues. Asked by NH1 News about Democratic criticism over her vote last week against a ban on gay conversion therapy, Forrester said “it is so, so, disappointing to me that this is an issue for them (the New Hampshire Democratic Party) when they should be focusing on the economy of New Hampshire.”
She had a similar answer when asked about the fight between the U.S. Justice Department and North Carolina over that state’s controversial law restricting transgender bathroom choice.
“I think that’s a diversion. And it’s unfortunate that other folks are wasting time, I believe, on that issue, when it hasn’t come to New Hampshire. We don’t have legislation in front of us. As far as I understand it is not a problem in New Hampshire,” she said.
Forrester also urged that “we (Republicans) can’t ’be diverted and divided on this issue.”