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Sep 5, 2016 10:12 PM

With primary a week out, candidates talk with NH1 News about stretch run strategy

NH1 News Political Director

MILFORD – With a week to go until primary day, the top contenders for governor are making their closing cases, and making sure their campaign ground games are at full strength.

”It’s all about the ground and getting people out to vote and making sure you’re shaking as many hands as you can shake and getting supporters on board,” Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas told NH1 News, minutes before he marched in the Milford Labor Day parade.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate added that letting the voters “know this is probably the most important election that they can vote in, because it comes down to trust, leadership, and experience.”

State Rep. Frank Edelblut agreed.

The GOP gubernatorial candidate from Wilton said “we just have our plan and we’re executing our plan right up through September 13.”

Asked what his campaign’s doing in the closing days, Edelblut explained “tagging voters. Just touching as many voters as we can between now and September 13th is what we’re going to be focusing on.”

Executive Councilor Chris Sununu announced his candidacy for the Corner Office one year ago, on Labor Day 2015, becoming the first candidate to jump into the race.

“This race began and will end with people. That’s what it’s about. You got to get in there early, travel the entire state, listen to what people are saying, carry their message forward to make sure we’re making the best decisions in Concord,” Sununu told NH1 News.

“We’ve had a tremendous run,” Sununu touted, before cautioning that “you take nothing for granted. Push hard for the last eight days, make sure you get everyone out there to vote. Don’t forget to vote on September 13 and we’ll see where the chips fall but we feel very, very, good.”

The other major GOP gubernatorial candidate, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester of Meredith, was also optimistic, highlighting her recent endorsements.

“I was pleased to get the endorsement of the Union Leader, a conservative voice for New Hampshire, the oldest statewide paper,” Forrester said.

WATCH: The NH1 News GOP primary debates

She announced that endorsement last Wednesday, at the close of the NH1 News GOP gubernatorial primary debate, which was the first broadcast TV showdown between the top four contenders. Standing next to Forrester as she spoke with NH1 News on Monday was well-known conservative and anti-tax activist Tom Thomson. The son of former Gov. Mel Thomson and author of the Granite State anti-tax pledge recently backed Forrester’s bid for the Corner Office.

“Obviously I was very, very, pleased to get Tom Thomson’s endorsement, because we know how important it is to cut spending and cut taxes in New Hampshire and to take that pledge,” Forrester added.

Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern was the only one of the three leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates to march in the Milford parade. He said in the final days, “a lot of it comes down to momentum. We’re kind of turning from summer into fall and I think a lot of people realize how important it is we have a good governor who’s going to keep our state moving forward.”

Ayotte not taking primary for granted

Gov. Maggie Hassan marched at the front of the parade, in her official role as Granite State governor.

Further back, marching among the other candidates, was Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who’s facing a tough Democratic challenge from Hassan as she runs for re-election. But first Ayotte needs to fend off a longshot primary challenge from former state Sen. Jim Rubens of Hanover.

Asked if she was taking the primary for granted, Ayotte responded “no. Not at all. First things first.”

She faced off against Rubens last Thursday in a NH1 News GOP U.S. Senate primary debate, which was the first time she debated since first winning election to the Senate in 2010.

“Haven’t done it in six years. And you asked some tough questions. So it was great to be able to get my ideas out certainly the differences between myself and my primary opponent and also myself and governor Maggie Hassan,” she told NH1 News.

The GOP gubernatorial debate was held the night before.

Sununu said he enjoyed the showdown, adding “I felt great. I felt great. It’s always good to get all the candidate in one place and ask serious questions. Talk about the issues and make sure it is a race about issues. It’s about positivity and energy and optimism.”

Edelblut, who’s arguably the least well known of the GOP contenders for the Corner Office, said the NH1 News debate was “a great opportunity to get our message out to the people of New Hampshire.”

And Forrester said “I felt very good. I felt confident. I think I did really nice job and I was pleased to be on your station.”

The Democratic gubernatorial candidates face off this week in two broadcast TV debates, including an NH1 News showdown on Thursday evening.

Asked how he’s preparing, Van Ostern said “I’m really looking forward to them. I’ve been spending the summer talking to voters, town hall meetings, house parties meet and greets, talking and listening from folks about how we can keep our state moving forward. That’s exactly what I’ll be focused on, on the (NH1 News) debate on Thursday night.”

Also marching in the parade was former three-term state Rep. Jim Lawrence of Hudson. He’s considered the top contender to win the GOP nomination in the 2nd Congressional District, and win the honors to face off in November against two-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster.

“The most important thing is to not pay attention to polls. They’re looking pretty good but I’m not paying to that,” Lawrence told NH1 News.

Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, marches in the 2016 Milford Labor Day parade

Executive Councilor and GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu marches in the 2016 Milford Labor Day parade

State Rep. Frank Edelblut, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, marches in the 2016 Milford Labor Day parade

State Sen. Jeanie Forrester, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, marches in the 2016 Milford Labor Day parade

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, marches in the 2016 Milford Labor Day parade

Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte marches in the 2016 Milford Labor Day parade

Former state Rep. Jim Lawrence, a GOP congressional candidate, marches in the 2016 Milford Labor Day parade

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