Oct 4, 2016 10:31 PM
NH1 News Political Director
CONCORD – Republican Chris Sununu and Democrat Colin Van Ostern face off Wednesday evening in their first televised gubernatorial debate.
On the eve of their showdown the fellow members of New Hampshire’s five member Executive Council traded fire from a distance as they both visited technical training programs. And Sununu, who’s CEO of the Waterville Valley Resort, pushed back against claims from the New Hampshire Democratic Party that he limited hours of employees in order to avoid paying them healthcare.
Sununu kicked off Tuesday by landing the backing of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Asked about the endorsement in a one-on-one interview with NH1 News, Sununu said “they understand that we need a governor with real business experience.”
The three-term executive councilor often touts his steering of Waterville Valley as he runs for the Corner Office, highlighting the resort’s 800 employees. Asked about his rival’s business experience, Sununu said “to compare my business background with Colin’s is comical at best. Colin Van Ostern is a paid political operative. His career was running campaigns. When I was cleaning up hazardous waste sites he was running campaigns. When I was designing renewable energy projects, he was out there spinning messages, again, for the candidates he was working for.”
“I don’t know much about Colin’s background other than he worked at Stonyfield for a couple of years as a mid-level manager, and that’s fine, before he returned to academia. People in New Hampshire want someone with real experience,” Sununu added.
Sununu’s endorsement came minutes after he toured Maverick Technical Institute in Nashua.
“Maverick is a company that thought outside the box and decided to kind of take matters into their own hands, developing their own technical school that is not just providing the skills to enter to workforce but high paying jobs immediately, on day one,” Sununu explained. “That’s what we’re really lacking in the state right now. That’s been a big part of my campaign, part of my emphasis in making sure that as kids graduate, as they move into that workforce, they have those skills on day one.”
Van Ostern says he has 'deep concerns' about Sununu
While the Republican gubernatorial nominee was at Maverick Technical Institute, the Democratic nominee visited Manchester Community College, where he met with administrators and students as he toured manufacturing, information technology and computer science training facilities.
Later, speaking to reporters, Van Ostern said “strengthening our workforce and bringing down the cost of higher education needs to be at the very top of our next governor’s priority list. We have among the lowest unemployment in the nation but we also have the highest cost of college in the nation.”
Van Ostern touted that “I've put a clear priority and have a specific plan for how we lower college costs, lower student debt, boost our work force, and I also proud to bring my own experience, having helped launch of the most successful colleges here in New Hampshire: College for America, part of Southern New Hampshire University.
Then he criticized his rival, saying “I also have deep concerns that for example our career technical education programs throughout New Hampshire, which are supported by our state department of Education, would suffer serious setbacks if Chris Sununu’s plan to quote-un-quote gut the state board of education, would pass. We need a governor who’s going to invest in our workforce and in education.”
While Sununu was in Nashua and Van Ostern in Manchester, the New Hampshire Democratic Party held a news conference in Concord where they took aim at Sununu, charging he limited the hours of some of his employees at Waterville Valley in order to avoid paying heath care.
Former AFL-CIO President Mark MacKenzie accused Sununu of trying “to dodge the Affordable Care Act.”
“If this is Chris Sununu’s approach to business, then that's going to certainly spill over to his approach to government, and to balance budgets and make improvements in the state, it should come at the expense of workers,” he added.
“We've constantly had to manage through Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster. we've never laid a single person off. And I give my team at Waterville great credit for managing through these costs,” Sununu responded, in his interview with NH1 News.
“Look at the state of New Hampshire alone who has limited their workers, thousands, thousands of their workers, to 29 hours or less. it's not right. It’s happening all across the state,” he added.
With Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte rather than running for a third term in the Corner Office, it’s been a wide open race for governor this cycle. Following the debate Wednesday evening, which is being hosted by NECN, the next televised showdown will be an NH1 News debate on Wednesday October, 26th.
Colin Van Ostern talks with students and administrators at Manchester Community College on Oct. 4, 2016
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