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Mar 3, 2016 2:32 PM

Steinhauser/Landrigan: Democratic candidate for governor raises big 'concerns' with governor's appointment

NH1 News Political Unit

CONCORD – Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern is running to succeed fellow Democrat Maggie Hassan in the corner office, but he appears to be breaking with the two-term governor over her pick to oversee New Hampshire’s banks.

In a sit down interview with NH1 News, Van Ostern said he has some “serious doubts” about state Sen. Jerry Little, who Hassan nominated last month to serve as commissioner of the New Hampshire Banking Department.

At issue in the nomination controversy is the Republican state lawmaker’s ties to the banking industry. Little served as a top official, spokesman, and lobbyist at the New Hampshire Bankers Association for more than two decades. He left the organization in 2011.

The move by Hassan, who’s challenging Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte this year rather than running for re-election, has angered some in the Democratic Party’s progressive base. The national progressive group MoveOn.org launched a petition calling on Hassan to “rescind the nomination.”

Also leading the charge against the Little nomination is Concord based progressive talk radio host Arnie Arnesen, a former state representative and 1992 Democratic gubernatorial nominee. Wednesday on “New Hampshire Today” with host Jack Heath on 99.1 NH1 News, Arnesen called the nomination “tone deaf” in light of the large New Hampshire primary victories by outsiders Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

The Nashua Telegraph, in an unsigned editorial, also criticized the nomination, saying “this is why people are disgusted with politics.”

Asked about the nomination, Van Ostern told NH1 News "I think New Hampshire voters and consumers and citizens deserve a banking commissioner with a demonstrated track record of independence. I do have some serious doubts that his professional background is not consistent with what we need best from the independence and accountability in that role.”

“We have an important process that’s going on right now. I’ve had a chance to sit down and talk with him about some of my concerns, see what he has to say. We’ll have a public hearing on the nomination and then we’ll vote accordingly. I’m going to vote base on what I think is best for the people of New Hampshire,” he added.

Speaking with NH1 News recently, Hassan defended her choice of Little.

"So I think if people actually look at his record as well as understand the kind of personal integrity he brings to the job, they will understand why I nominated him," Hassan said.

In an op-ed Thursday in the Nashua Telegraph, Democratic State Sen. Dan Feltes defended Little.

"Some have asked Gov. Maggie Hassan to rescind her nomi­nation of Jerry Little for state bank­ing commissioner because he had previously lobbied for and served as head of the New Hampshire Bankers Association. This rhetoric strikes a populist chord I very much share, but sometimes rhetoric doesn't match reality. In my view, this is one of those cases," Feltes wrote.

"I will testify in sup­port of Jerry's nomination. I will do so because he asked me to and I think it's the right thing to do. It's the right thing to do because I know that Jerry will do the job well. He has the ex­pertise, the necessary integrity and independence and he will stand up for consumers. Time and time again, I've seen him do exactly that," Feltes added.

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