Election 2016: Sununu, Van Ostern Square Off In Gubernatorial Forum

Sep 21, 2016

The candidates for New Hampshire governor faced questions around economic issues, addressed issues including energy prices, health care costs, and the Granite State tax structure.  

Republican Chris Sununu and Democrat Colin Van Ostern joined The Exchange's Laura Knoy and NHPR reporter Josh Rogers, along with NHBR's Bob Sanders, at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College.

NHPR forum partners are the New Hampshire Business Review and New Hampshire Business and Industry Association.

Forum Live Blog  |  Watch on Facebook Live  |  Meet the Candidates

Press play to listen to the forum. Scroll to the bottom of the blog for the "overtime" portion, which featured more personal questions about the candidates.

Watch: You can watch the forum live via Facebook Live video right here:

Note: Video includes pre-event announcements and "overtime" portion of the conversation with the candidates.

Engage: We'll be live-tweeting the forum from @NHPR and @NHPRExchange, and live-blogging the forum below. 

Meet the Candidates

Candidate Resumes

Click the image below for a snapshot of Chris Sununu and Colin Van Ostern's professional and political experience.

Candidate Interviews:  

Colin Van Ostern appeared on The Exchange with the other major candidates running in the Democratic gubernatorial primary on September 1st. Listen to that show.

Chris Sununu spoke with Morning Edition host Rick Ganley on September 9th. Click here for the interview.

Candidate Feature Stories:

Sizing Up Sununu's Impact at Waterville Valley  

Van Ostern Puts Private Sector Experience at Center of Gubernatorial Bid

Live Blog

Editor's note: This blog doesn't capture all of the questions and answers from the forum. For the content in its entirety, listen to the broadcast version above. 

Credit Jessica Hunt for NHPR

3:51: Laura Knoy is wrapping up last-minute broadcast tech details with NHPR's Dan Colgan (left) and Andrew Parrella.

4:06: Our feed is live while we wait for guests to be seated. Check out the live video feed on Facebook right here.

Forum rules: Each candidate will have 60 seconds to answer a question, and the panel is allowed to ask each candidate follow-up questions after they answer.

4:20: Forum begins

Laura's first question goes to Sununu: In light of recent terror attacks, what about New Hampshire's security infrastructure needs beefing up?

Sununu: The first thing we can do is make sure law enforcement has the tools and resources they need. "It's not just terrorism, it's what we do in our day to day lives."

Sununu adds that we have a "recruitment problem with cops," and we need to focus resources on recruiting officers.

State lawmakers voted to approve "Granite Hammer" in June.
Credit Paige Sutherland for NHPR

When asked the same question, Van Ostern stresses better communication and tackling the opioid crisis as priorities. He mentions Granite Hammer, legislation he supported to better fund law enforcement's response to the opioid crisis. 

Related: More on ‘Granite Hammer’ drug enforcement funding, which was approved by lawmakers in June.

4:28: NHPR's Josh Rogers asks the candidates for their views on expanded Medicaid, which is currently providing 50,000 New Hampshire residents coverage, but has an uncertain future because of the political debate over funding.

For background on this issue, read our coverage of the Expanded Medicaid bill from the 2016 legislative session.

4:38: Question for the candidates - What would you do differently to handle the state's opioid crisis?

Related: For a deep dive on the issue of opioid addiction and policy in N.H., explore the stories in our series Dangerous Ends.

4:40: Josh Rogers asks Van Ostern about rail, and whether we would raise the gas tax to pay for infrastructure improvements.

Credit Rachel Pics via Flickr CC

Van Ostern touts his support for rail, expanding the Route 93 project, and the financing plan he's been working on with fellow Democrat Chris Pappas.

Van Ostern sites data that show "5600 new jobs" would be created by investment in infrastructure and rail.

When asked about increasing the gas tax, Van Ostern says the tax was recently increased, and the state should look at other options, including finding efficiencies in state spending.

Related: Click here for more on the continuing debate over commuter rail in New Hampshire.

4:44 Josh Rogers to Sununu: Your website says we need to "fix red-listed bridges now." Where would revenue come from?

Sununu responds that the answer is in prioritizing resources, not raising the gas tax.

4:45 Question posed by Josh Rogers: What should we do to handle the drought? Should businesses be asked to cut back water use?

4:55 In response to school funding questions, Sununu says he believe there should be a constitutional amendment to revert school funding to the legislature.

On workforce development:

4:55: It's time for the lightning round! Questions on the alcohol fund, the minimum wage, a motorcycle helmet law, and more. 

  

Sununu says he believes in following the fed's lead on minumum wage, Van Ostern supports a state minimum wage that's higher than the fed.

Related story from March 2016: Upping N.H.'s Minimum Wage Again Falls Flat at Statehouse    

More lightning round Q&A's, courtesy NHPR's Casey McDermott

5:01: Question - Is New Hampshire's energy situation "a crisis?"

Sununu says it is, citing his high energy costs at Waterville Valley, the ski resort he runs. Van Ostern talks about his support for renewables.

5:04 Both candidates are asked about whether they support Northern Pass.

Credit Sam Evans-Brown for NHPR

Click here for background on the controversial Northern Pass project and to see NHPR’s coverage of the issue. 

Van Ostern is critical of the project's shifting messages on whether the lines could be buried, says Northern Pass needs to be "good partners" to the state and be sensitive to the tourism economy.

Sununu cites his experience as an environmental engineer, arguing that is the lens through which he would weigh the value of energy projects. He further criticizes Van Ostern for supporting every renewable project that has come before the Executive Council.

5:06: Questions for both candidates on tax incentives for renewable energy, and RGGI.

On background: David Brooks, the Concord Monitor reporter better known as “The Granite Geek,” spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello about RGGI, and whether the ten year-old program can be called a success. Click here for that story

5:11: Time for lighter questions. What was your worst job ever and what did you learn from it?

Colin Van Ostern: Working at a movie rental store in high school. Won't got into details, says it was a "great learning experience." Says his next job was at Circuit City, another company that failed because it fell behind the times.

Chris Sununu says he worked at a movie theater, and learned that people should pick up after themselves.

For Sununu: What do you like about what Governor Hassan has done during her term?

House speaker Shawn Jasper's mustache earned praise from Van Ostern
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Sununu says he likes that she's moved to Newfields, and that he likes her positive attitude and personal style.

On follow-up as to whether he likes any of her policy issues, Sununu struggles a bit before saying he likes that she finally signed the budget after previously vetoing it.

For Van Ostern: What do you like that the Republican legislature has done?

Van Ostern cites speaker Shawn Jasper's bipartisan efforts to get things done, and the "tremendous courage" it took to get Medicaid expansion passed. He also praised Jasper's mustache.

Forum Overtime:

After the broadcast version of the forum concluded, it was time for a more relaxed conversation during which the panel asked candidates questions about their personal lives, work style, parenting, and more. 

You can watch the overtime portion near the end of the video posted above, or listen right here:

Chris Sununu laughs at a question posed by forum moderator Laura Knoy
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR