Gov. Maggie Hassan speaks with NH1 News on March 9

Mar 13, 2016 9:54 PM

Steinhauser: Two Democrats running for governor part with Hassan over banking pick

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – The two Democrats running to succeed Gov. Maggie Hassan in the Corner Office don’t see eye to eye with the Democratic governor over her nominee for state banking commissioner.

But regardless, Hassan’s pick last month of GOP State Sen. Jerry Little will most likely pass the Executive Council thanks to support from the council’s GOP members.

At issue is Little’s nearly two decades at the New Hampshire Bankers Association, serving as president and chief lobbyist. Hassan’s pick of Little to regulate the industry he long represented is rubbing the two Democratic gubernatorial candidates the wrong way.

“He's not the right person for the job because he was the chief lobbyist, head of the New Hampshire Bankers Association and now he's nominated to be basically the bank commissioner,” Mark Connolly told NH1 News in an interview that aired Sunday on NH1 Newsmakers.

Connolly’s a former state lawmaker and businessman who served nearly a decade as Director of the New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation, making him the state government’s top whistleblower.

Colin Van Ostern appears to agree with Connolly.

The Democratic executive councilor and gubernatorial candidate recently told NH1 News that "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.”

But Hassan disagrees.

Speaking Wednesday with NH1 News, Hassan defended her pick, saying “I nominated Sen. Jerry Little to become our next banking commissioner because after a thorough vetting process I determined that he was the person with the best qualifications, the best character, to lead the department at this time.”

“He has not worked for the banking industry since 2011, so I think it’s very important that we take this on a case by case basis and that the people ask whatever questions are on their minds about his qualifications at the hearing. I continue to believe he has unique qualifications and the kind of character that will help him focus on with the department on protecting consumers and having an appropriately regulated and strong financial sector in New Hampshire,” Hassan continued.

Hassan, who’s challenging Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte this year rather than running for re-election, has also been criticized by Concord based progressive talk radio host Arnie Arnesen, a former state representative and 1992 Democratic gubernatorial nominee. Two weeks ago 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 national progressive group also launched a petition calling on Hassan to “rescind the nomination.” And the Nashua Telegraph, in an unsigned editorial, also criticized the nomination, saying “this is why people are disgusted with politics.”

Speaking with NH1 News, Hassan said that “I think it’s very important that a public hearing proceed, which I believe the council is going to conduct very soon.”

That public hearing will take place on Friday. But a vote on Little nomination will not occur at the earliest until later this month or early April, which would allow the state senator to continue serving his constituents during a busy stretch in the State House as lawmakers vote on scores of legislation. Wednesday the Executive Council decided that no special election would be held for Little’s seat. If he had been confirmed and stepped down before March 15, a special election would have been necessary.

While both Van Ostern and Chris Pappas, the other Democrat on the Executive Council, both have reservations over the nomination, Republicans Chris Sununu (who’s running for governor), Joe Kenney and David Wheeler, all support Little.

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