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Former BAE CEO Havenstein stresses ‘know-how’ in bid for governor

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 16. 2014 1:19PM
Republican Walt Havenstein of Alton announces for governor in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building in Concord with wife Judy at his side. (DAVE SOLOMON/UNION LEADER)

CONCORD — Former defense industry executive Walt Havenstein officially launched his campaign for the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan on Wednesday, surrounded by GOP luminaries during his announcement in the Legislative Office Building.

Former GOP governors Steve Merrill and Craig  Benson, the state Senate leadership and Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, RNewfields, were on hand as the ex-CEO of BAE Systems promised to provide a “stark contrast” to Hassan if he wins the nomination.

Havenstein will first have to defeat Andy Hemingway, a 31-year-old entrepreneur and political activist, in the September primary.

But on Wednesday, he was clearly looking beyond the primary to the November election.

“This is a critical juncture for New Hampshire, and Granite Staters have a clear choice for governor this November. It’s a choice between Maggie Hassan’s good intentions and my know-how, between hoping and leading, and between rhetoric and results,” Havenstein said. “Governor Hassan is a good person, but she doesn’t know what to do to end the stagnation and get our economy moving again.”

Havenstein touted his experience at BAE, where he said he balanced a budget three times the size of the state budget, and his involvement with FIRST, the robotics competition founded by Segway creator Dean Kamen to stimulate interest in science and engineering in young students.

While not specifically saying he opposed casino gambling, the Alton resident criticized Hassan for including revenue from the ill-fated proposal in her first budget.

“I am terribly disappointed that we have a governor whose centerpiece of economic development is casino gambling,” he said. “We can do better than that. Whether I personally agree or disagree with casino gambling is not the issue. The issue is how are we going to help all businesses flourish in New Hampshire, not selected businesses in selected parts of the state.”

When pressed on the issue later, he said he was personally against expanded gambling in New Hampshire.

Regarding a 4-cent increase in the state gasoline tax, which appears headed for approval, Havenstein said he wanted to make sure all existing highway funds and federal “stimulus” funds are being properly spent on roads and bridges. “I don’t think now, in a time of economic stagnation, is a time to raise a tax on anyone,” he said.

On broad-based taxes, he said simply, “Forget it,” to laughter and applause. (See related column item, Page A2).

When asked if he supported the national Republican Party platform, Havenstein said he was not fond of litmus tests, but stood by traditional GOP principles.

“Less government trumps more government,” he said. “Less tax trumps more tax. Individual freedom trumps government intrusion into our personal lives. That’s what I believe in as a Republican.”

He also said he opposed repeal of the death penalty in New Hampshire. “There are some crimes in my view that are so heinous, we need to have that option,” he said. “Our statute is a very narrow statute. I am not in favor of repealing that very narrow statute.”

While criticizing Obamacare, and staking out his opposition to Medicaid expansion in the state, Havenstein focused most of his comments on economic development and job creation.

He said he would not release tax records from Maryland and New Hampshire in response to a possible residency challenge from Democrats.

“And I’m not going to ask anyone I run against to release their tax records,” he said. “I am very confident that I have fulfilled all my obligation to Maryland and other states when I was commuting to those states from New Hampshire to work.”

Havenstein graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served 28 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring from the Marine Reserve in 1999 with the rank of colonel.

He spent 30 years in the private sector, including his tenure as CEO for BAE Systems, the state’s largest manufacturing employer. He’s been married to his wife, Judy, for 40 years.

They have a son and two granddaughters.

His Republican opponent in the primary welcomed Havenstein to the race. “ I look forward to a lively debate on the issues that matter most to New Hampshire citizens,” Hemingway in a statement released by his campaign.

Hassan’s campaign declined to respond directly to Havenstein’s announcement.

“Governor Hassan remains focused on standing up for the priorities of the people of New Hampshire, and she will continue working to bring people together to reach bipartisan solutions that will strengthen our middle class, support job-creating businesses, and keep New Hampshire’s economy moving forward,” said her campaign manager, Marc Goldberg.

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