All this week on Morning Edition, we're talking with the Republican candidates for governor.
Ted Gatsas is in his seventh year as mayor of Manchester, the state's largest city.
Manchester has seen a tech boom of late with new businesses come into the city, especially the revitalized Millyard area. What can you take away from that and apply to other communities, like Claremont or Berlin?
I can tell you that all businesses are looking for the same thing. They’re looking for a workforce that’s ready to go to work and trained, which is something Manchester’s School of Technology is doing and creating for folks. But when you talk about manufacturing, when you talk to students about manufacturing, they think about the old mills of their grandfathers. I was at Sig Sauer just a few weeks ago and they’ve got 150 jobs that pay between $50,000 and $100,000 a year. So I can tell you that the manufacturing industry is looking for folks who are trained and we need to make sure all students have an opportunity to get ready for the work force.
How do you do that?
With programs like the School of Technology. If we can convert the other nine technical schools in the state to full-time schools, students could be ready from day one when they graduate. We had our first graduating class this year: 54 students. This year, we had 120 students apply to go to the School of Technology. So I can tell you that students look and are understanding right now being a plumber or being an electrician and not going to college aren’t bad industries to be in.
A Superior Court judge sided with the city of Dover in its lawsuit against the state, ruling the state’s cap on education aid to cities and towns is unconstitutional.
You’ve talked about the need for a constitutional amendment, but the issue always seems to come down to funding. What’s your plan to solve this problem?
A constitutional amendment. There’s no question that has to happen to get the courts out of this discussion.
How do you actually get that done?
I’ve been talking about this for 16 years. When I was in the state Senate, we were one vote short from passing it, to have a constitutional amendment that could have gone before the state and a governor that supported the wording on that amendment. So I can tell you I’d be working very hard to do the same thing this year because you are never, never going to change educational funding until you get the courts out of it and it’s based on need.
The next governor will have to make a decision on the future of the state’s Medicaid expansion program, which roughly 50,000 Granite Staters now rely on for health care. You’ve said you want to find a New Hampshire solution – what does that mean?
I think there’s got to be discussion about if you’re receiving benefits, do you have personal responsibility in the game. I think that’s what’s most important. When you start talking about personal responsibility, people start understanding what health care costs are all about. So I say we can’t just throw 46,000 people into the emergency rooms all over again because that cost is going to spread out through the rest of us. So it’s important that we take a look at solutions that make sense. Do we reimburse folks when they go to a low-cost provider for some of the savings that we might have? Those are ideas that other states have put in place and have talked about. Those are things we should be looking at for a New Hampshire solution.
On the issue of the state’s opioid and heroin abuse crisis, you’ve obviously seen firsthand the impact in Manchester. Are there changes to state law you’d advocate for to deal with this issue statewide?
I’ve talked about anybody that’s dealing fentanyl should be arrested for attempted murder. That would be a change in state law. If somebody dies from the fentanyl that person has dealt, they should be put away without the possibility of parole. I’ve talked about felony first to get them out of the district courts and into the superior courts because right now, drug dealers are getting arrested on Tuesday and they’re back out on the street dealing by Thursday. And that’s just not right. And we have to talk about the physicians and the prescriptions for opioids. I say let’s do as Massachusetts did and talk about a seven-day prescription bill that says a doctor can only prescribe opioids for seven days. I’m not looking to get between a doctor and his patient. But there’s nothing that says the patient shouldn’t go back at the end of seven days if they still have pain so they can get a prescription and make sure that the pain is controlled.
You’ve talked about charging fentanyl dealers with attempted murder. What about dealers of other potentially deadly drugs, such as cocaine or prescription pills?
We have an epidemic right now. I don’t have to tell you that. It’s about fentanyl, that’s what people are dying from. It’s all about dealing with the situation that’s at hand and understanding what we need to do to make sure that people that are in this state and are dealing fentanyl know that the penalties are pretty high.
If elected, you’ve said you would seek to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees in New Hampshire, citing concerns about security to the state. What specifically would need to happen for you to feel comfortable with Syrian refugees coming into the state?
We would have to know how they’re being vetted. That’s what’s most important is the vetting process.
What do we know about that process?
That’s a good question. Can you tell me? Because I can’t tell you. The only time I know when a refugee is coming to the city of Manchester is when the health department calls me and says we’ve got two adults and two children resettling in Manchester today. That’s the first time I know about it.
And what would make you feel better? Just to know what’s going on with the vetting process?
I would like to know that the vetting process is as significant as it used to be with refugees that are being resettled. That’s what’s important.
There are many in Manchester who’d like to see the next governor be an advocate for commuter rail to Boston. Critics argue such a project would be too costly and send Granite Staters out of state to work. Where do you stand on this?
I can tell you that I would never use taxpayer dollars to fund rail. I can tell you that I’m not in favor of rail, but I would look at it. If someone has a plan, I would always look at it. So it’s all about how do we pay for it and what comes before us so we can see something.
We’ve heard from some candidates who say business leaders in the southern tier want to see rail come in. Have you heard that?
Of course I have, but nobody wants to talk about how it’s going to be paid for.
Where do you stand on abortion and funding to Planned Parenthood?
I’m opposed to taxpayer dollars to fund Planned Parenthood. I’m pro-choice, that’s no secret. I’m against partial-birth abortion. I’m in favor of parental notification. And I’m against the morning after pill for minors.
I did want to touch on campaign finance. We’ve reported on the so-called LLC loophole, something your campaign has benefited from more than any other candidate. This allows individuals with multiple corporate alter-egos to donate up $7,000 in the name of each business.
One company, Brady Sullivan, has given you more than $50,000 using 10 different LLCS. Other real estate companies used a similar tactic to donate to you.
Why do you think these kinds of companies are being so generous to your campaign?
I can tell you that I’ve been friends with them for an awful long time and that’s what’s most important. The rules are the rules. And I play by the rules. If we were playing baseball and you were only allowed two strikes and I was allowed three, the rules would change for you. So I play by the rules. I’ve certainly talked to the attorney general’s office about the rules and I play by the rules.
I don’t think anybody’s suggesting that you’re not.
You certainly made that suggestion when you asked the question.
No, I didn’t suggest you were doing anything outside the rules. I’m asking about public perceptions.
Public perception is in the primaries, it’s about friendship, and in general elections, it’s about good government.