Jul 15, 2016 4:56 PM
NH1 News Political Director
CONCORD – With less than two months to go until primary day, the race for New Hampshire’s GOP gubernatorial nomination is turning into a four way fistfight.
And the first debate between the major candidates is more than enough proof that the war of words is getting as hot as the summer temperatures.
Three-term Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, who enjoys the best name recognition among the Republican contenders and is considered the favorite at this state of the race, was expected to come under attack from his rivals, and those expectations were more than met.
State Rep. Frank Edelblut, the conservative first-term lawmaker who is the least well known candidate but who’s quickly energizing activists on the right, criticized Sununu minutes into the start of Thursday night’s debate at Windham High School.
Edelblut zeroed in on Sununu’s stance as a candidate to supports abortion rights.
“I would challenge chris as well because the platform is very specific about life,” Edleblut said, answering a question about the NHGOP’s platform.
A few minutes later, Sununu’s recent high profile swing vote on the Executive Council to restore state funding for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, which is opposed by many conservatives, was on the docket. The candidates were asked if as governor, the would sign a bill prohibiting such funding. Edelblut, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas all said yes, with Sununu answering “if there are no options for quality health care, no.”
Sununu introduced his economic plan the day before the debate. The New Hampshire Democratic Party described the proposal as “far-right talking points” which consist “of little more than red meat for the Republican base.”
But Forrester, the conservative lawmaker from Meredith, had a vastly different opinion, saying “I have to say when I saw that plan I thought it might have been written by Maggie Hassan.”
The line become one of the most talked about moments in the debate.
Sununu quickly responded, asking “what part was that.”
“All of it,” Forrester shot back.
Following the debate, NH1 News asked Forrester about Sununu’s plan, pointing out that it’s doubtful Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan (who’s running for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte) would include a push for a Right to Work law and language calling to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“He also talked about spending more money on infrastructure,” Forrester said. “There were some things in the plan that really didn't sound like a Republican plan and that's what I was referring to.”
While Forrester criticized Sununu’s proposals, Edelblut took on all of his rivals, saying “we have structural problems that won't be fixed by gimmicky plans that politicians tend to create.”
That comment incited spirited responses from Gatsas and Forrester.
Later, Gatsas told NH1 News “Rep. Edelblut doesn't have any ways that he's going to solve problems. You tell me one answer that he gave you that you feel comfortable to a solution to a problem."
“He has no plans. He has not come up with an economic plan, or a government reform plan or a plan for the heroin and opioid epidemic,” Forrester added. “When somebody doesn't have a plan they tend to lash out at other people.”
Common Core Clash
Some of the biggest fireworks came late in the debate, when the candidates argued over the Common Core educational standards, which are fiercely opposed by many on the right.
Standing next to Sununu, Gatsas said “when somebody stands here and says they support choice, but yet they vote to fund Common Core, that's a big question. And counselor Sununu voted to fund Common Core.
Sununu shot back at Gatsas, saying “there's no one standing on this stage that dislikes Common Core, Smarter Balance testing more than I do. And I take real offense to that.”
Sununu explained his vote, saying “I’m not going to play a game of financial chicken with our kids in these schools. I’m not going to do it.so what did we say. we were very clear. We told the department of education that they better come back with a system designed by New Hampshire.”
Edelblut then jumped in to the fight, criticizing both Sununu and Gatsas over the issue.
Asked following the debate if we’ll see a very aggressive Edleblut going forward, the candidate responded “I just think it's important for the people of New Hampshire to know the facts going into the election. So I don’t' really call that aggression. I call that making sure that we have all the information out on the table so people can make an informed decision about who they want to lead this state.”
In an apparent sign of his growing strength with conservative Republican activists, Edleblut easily won a straw poll of those who attended the debate.
“This debate was about establishing the battle lines for the next two months. Ted Gatsas and Chris Sununu are fighting over the more establishment and moderate groups, Jeanie Forrester is focusing on the conservative base and Frank Edelblut is working to consolidate both the conservative and libertarian aspects of the Republican primary electorate," Greg Moore, state director for Americans for Prosperity in New Hampshire told NH1 News.
"The real takeaway was the crowd – who could turn out their supporters on a hot Thursday in July. That speaks to the kind of enthusiasm that these candidates are creating in the grassroots. By that measure, the night was a huge win for Edelblut. The real question is if he can convert that fervor among the activists into broad support across the state," added Moore, who's staying neutral in the GOP nomination battle.
The race for the Corner Office isn’t grabbing a lot of headlines right now. It’s summertime, and most people other than engaged activists have checked out from politics. And those who are tuned in can quickly get distracted by the star power of the White House race and New Hampshire’s blockbuster U.S. Senate battle.
It’s a shame, because the race for the Corner Office is turning into a very compelling contest.
13 hours 12 minutes agoThe body of a New Jersey man who went missing in the White Mountains was found Thursday. (More)
12 hours 8 minutes agoThunderstorms hit quickly in parts of central and southern NHThursday afternoon, producing wind gusts powerful enough to knock down trees and power lines. (More)
Jul 20, 2017 5:16 PMNH AG Gordon MacDonald held a press conference Thursday to report findings on the investigation into the officer-involved shooting in Hampton on June 13....
Jul 20, 2017 2:34 PMWork has begun on the property that will soon house New Hampshire's newest indoor gun range. (More)
Jul 20, 2017 9:53 AMThe Salem man's suit seeks $5.5 million for punitive damages after his car was towed and stored by a Methuen, Mass., company after an...
Jul 20, 2017 5:11 PMNearly 4,000 customers are without power. (More)
Jul 20, 2017 4:27 PMAn investigation has determined that a gas-powered generator is to blame for the carbon monoxide poisoning death of a man in Litchfield earlier this...
Jul 20, 2017 11:16 AMThe owner of a truck may be facing charges after leaving his dog in a truck Wednesday afternoon when the temperature was in the...
Jul 19, 2017 11:15 AMChester police officer conducts adorable "traffic stop" on Edwards Mill Road Tuesday night. (More)
Jul 19, 2017 3:56 PMThe neighborhood where a 6-year-old boy apparently overdosed is familiar with the opioid crisis. (More)
Jul 19, 2017 5:38 PMThe community is mourning Ciara Brill who passed away Tuesday after battling a rare brain cancer. (More)
Jul 18, 2017 2:27 PMA Maine woman who fled to safety amid a deadly rampage says her boyfriend's father promised not to hurt her as he killed his...
Jul 20, 2017 7:11 AMArizona Sen. McCain tells Sen. Lindsey Graham, "I'll be back" following treatments after cancer discovered cancerous tumor last week. (More)
Jul 19, 2017 10:27 AMNew Hampshire is likely to get the second heat wave of the summer the next few days. Some tips on how to beat the...
Jul 19, 2017 11:22 AMAMR personnel revived a 6-year-old boy with Narcan after they found him unresponsive in Manchester. (More)
Jul 19, 2017 9:38 AMThe Manchester Veterans Administration hospital reported a "catastrophic mechanical failure" at about 4 a.m. which flooded parts of the facility. (More)
Jul 19, 2017 7:19 AMSeveral area fire departments help fight the afternoon fire. (More)
Jul 19, 2017 7:49 AMA New Hampshire lobsterman has joined an elite club after catching a rare blue lobster. (More)
Jul 18, 2017 3:22 PMA new study shows boxed macaroni and cheese has more than 4 times the amount of harmful chemical than other cheeses. (More)
Jul 18, 2017 8:13 PMNH will become the 22nd state in the nation to decriminalize simple marijuana possession thanks to a bill Governor Sununu signed into law Tuesday....
Jul 18, 2017 12:45 PMA Troy man faces 20 charges after he allegedly fled from police while drunken driving. (More)
Jul 18, 2017 12:18 PMA former dean of students at Pembroke Academy was in court Tuesday following two previous missed appearances. (More)
Jul 18, 2017 3:10 PMRochester Police had previously gotten reports that the wanted man would 'not be taken alive' and 'would shoot any officer that tried arresting him.'...
Jul 17, 2017 4:04 PMEight-month-old baby Colton recently diagnosed with a fatal genetic disease. (More)
Jul 18, 2017 12:16 PMSununu ranked towards the middle of the pack, coming in as the 19th most approved governor with a 57 percent approval rating. (More)
Jul 18, 2017 1:05 PMNew Hampshire's attorney general says a search is being conducted at a home where the bodies of two women were found in January. (More)
Jul 17, 2017 3:32 PMPolice arrest a New Hampshire man after witnesses say he dragged a woman out of his vehicle, punched her, and left her unconscious in...
Jul 17, 2017 2:06 PMA boating accident that killed a 12-year-old girl happened after her father's hat blew from his head. (More)
Jul 17, 2017 3:49 PMThose who visited Hampton Beach during the afternoon on July 9 should monitor themselves for measles symptoms. (More)
Jul 17, 2017 9:54 AMSkywatchers were buzzing over the weekend about a potential sighting of the northern lights, but most missed out on the bright lights known as...
Jul 16, 2017 4:23 PMThe Veterans Affairs Office is launching a review of the Manchester Veterans Affairs Medical Center following allegations of poor conditions and patient care. (More)
Jul 17, 2017 7:48 AMPolice say the three occupants of a 1993 Mustang were not properly restrained. Injuries came after the car hit a boulder and rolled over....
Jul 16, 2017 8:43 PMAfter a tough race, Denny Hamlin took home his first victory in nearly 28 races with the NASCAR series. (More)
Jul 15, 2017 2:49 PMThe New Hampshire State Police announced that they will be conducting a sobriety checkpoint in Bedford during the weekend of July 28, 2017. (More)
Jul 16, 2017 3:08 PMSpace weather forecasters say that a recent explosion on the sun could lead to a rare display of the bright dancing lights known as...
Jul 15, 2017 6:54 PMAn event celebrating the opening of a brand new indoor seating area at an NH Ben and Jerry's featured live music, face painting, and...
Jul 14, 2017 7:05 PMThe study shows that only 199 violent crimes were reported per 100,000 New Hampshire residents in 2015. (More)
Jul 14, 2017 11:18 AMManchester police said they participated in "Operation Poison Ivy" to improve the quality of life for residents who live in the area of Enright...
Jul 14, 2017 9:54 AMA dying veteran's wish is to hear from you. (More)
Jul 14, 2017 3:57 PMConway police officers is looking for some help from citizens after a middle-aged man reportedly went missing within the White Mountain Forest. (More)
Jul 14, 2017 8:39 AMAn NH State Representative has been charged with multiple counts of sexual assault stemming from an incident involving a 16-year-old girl in July 2016....
Jul 13, 2017 5:22 PMPolice arrested seven people on various drug charges as part of the Granite Hammer Operation. (More)
Jul 13, 2017 6:38 PMRecent sexual assault allegations at St. Paul's school in Concord sparked an investigation by the Attorney General's Office. (More)
Jul 13, 2017 7:18 PMA NH woman turned herself in at the Dover PD after a warrant was issued for charges of selling fentanyl which resulted in the...
Jul 13, 2017 4:34 PMThe Deputy Fire Marshal discussed the investigation into Wednesday's carbon monoxide incident in Litchfield which killed one man and injured a woman. (More)
Jul 13, 2017 8:36 AMA search and multiple arrest warrants lead police to arrest four people and confiscate guns, drugs and money. (More)
Jul 13, 2017 7:16 AMFirst responders arrived about 6 p.m. Wednesday to check on two people they say were living in a Litchfield home. (More)
Jul 12, 2017 5:20 PMVerizon confirmed that personal data of 6 millions customers had been leaked online, according to CNN. (More)
Jul 12, 2017 10:21 AMA Concord woman was arrested after returning to the Salem Police Department twice in a span of five hours to ask for drugs back...