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November 08. 2012 1:42AM

Governor-elect Maggie Hassan: Priority is problem-solving


Gov.-Elect Maggie Hassan greets Mary Heath of Manchester during a stop at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester on Wednesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)


Gov. Elect Maggie Hassan hugs Gail Garceau of Bedford as she arrives at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester on Wednesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan returned Wednesday to the Red Arrow, the second time this year she greeted well-wishers and lunchtime diners after an election victory.

The Exeter Democrat, who won a hard-fought primary in September, defeated Manchester native Ovide Lamontagne in the race for governor Tuesday, keeping the Democrats in charge of the corner office after eight years of John Lynch.

"(Voters) wanted to continue with the strategy Governor Lynch had put together with both political parties. It's about problem-solving, moving forward," said Hassan about her victory. Hassan collected 55 percent of the vote, according to nearly complete returns. Lamontagne won 43 percent, and Libertarian John Barbiaz won 3 percent.

Hassan's vote total of roughly 374,000 exceeded even that of President Obama in the Granite State.

She spent most of the day greeting well-wishers, said her campaign spokesman, Marc Goldberg. She is expected to meet Lynch today at the State House and will meet legislators in the coming days to discuss their ideas of moving New Hampshire forward, he said.

Hassan, 54, is an attorney, wife of the principal of Phillips Exeter Academy and the mother of two. She was a former majority leader in the New Hampshire Senate. She and Lamontagne participated in nearly a dozen debates during the campaign.

Lamontagne said Hassan raised taxes when she was in the New Hampshire Senate, and he blamed her and her fellow Democrats for problems with the previous budget. Hassan, who took the pledge against a state income or sales tax, painted Lamontagne as a Tea Party extremist who would side with House Speaker Bill O'Brien and restrict a woman's access to birth control and abortion.

"People in New Hampshire really want things to work, and I think things were pretty dysfunctional in the last couple of years," she said outside the Red Arrow. "I think they want us to move forward, and I think that's what the race was about."

For Lamontagne, this was his third defeat in a statewide election. Neither he nor one of his chief strategists, Jim Merrill, returned a telephone call Wednesday.

"The Democrats very skillfully put a wedge between women voters and Republican candidates," said Fergus Cullen, a former Republican Party chairman. He said one exit poll showed that Hassan had a 22-percent margin over Lamontagne with women voters.

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Cullen also said Lamontagne paid a price for "morons" like Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana, as well as the perceived extremism on the part of the Republican Legislature in New Hampshire over the last two years. Akin and Mourdock were attacked for anti-abortion comments that came across as extreme and insensitive to women.

Cullen, who said he volunteered for the Lamontagne campaign only in the position of fundraiser, said Republicans will likely question Lamontagne's strategy of ignoring Hassan's frequent campaign charges dealing with women's health care and birth control. Only toward the end of the campaign did he start to call her an extremist on issues such as abortion, Cullen said.

At The Red Arrow, Hassan only spoke about moving forward, a phrase she used frequently. She said she wanted to bring business people and educators together to discuss improvement of the state's education system to help develop an innovation economy.

"What we see now," she said, "is a return to the New Hampshire tradition of bipartisan and nonpartisan problem-solving."

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Mark Hayward may be reached at mhayward@unionleader.com.


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