Another View -- Kathy Sullivan: Republicans should reconsider Walt Havenstein
STATE REPUBLICANS should double check those residency requirements to see if Walt Havenstein does not qualify to run for governor after all. His candidacy is proving to be so disappointing that bowing out now is an option worth exploring.
The candidate from Maryland’s latest misadventures took place at an Atkinson Republican Party meeting. An attendee asked Havenstein how he would change the quality of appointments made by Gov. Maggie Hassan. He responded by harshly criticizing Jeff Rose, the director of the Department of Resources and Economic Development. Notwithstanding Rose’s unanimous, bipartisan confirmation by the Executive Council, Havenstein said Rose “wouldn’t know how to encourage creatively business to come into the state any more than the man on the moon…”
This attack on Rose was ill-advised. Rose is well known and liked in both the business and political communities. His resume includes stints as an aide to Republican luminaries Jeb Bradley and John E. Sununu. Such a public assault on Rose will not sit well with members of the Republican establishment, the very same people Havenstein needs in order both to win the Republican nomination and to have even a scintilla of a chance to defeat Gov. Hassan.
The criticism also was surprising. Rose worked for BAE Systems for several years in the government relations department when Havenstein was the president of the company. It is poor form to throw a former employee under the bus the way Havenstein tossed Rose, just for the sake of scoring some political points. Gov. Hassan has made a number of appointments since her election. Why pick on someone who presumably was a loyal and good employee of the company Havenstein headed? If he wasn’t a good employee, then one would think Havenstein would have let him go. There is more than a hint of personal betrayal about the incident.
It gets worse. When asked by Nashua Telegraph reporter Kevin Landrigan about the comments, Havenstein dissembled, in what looked like a hamfisted effort at damage control. He claimed he was not criticizing Rose, but “Hassan’s failure to empower the agency to stimulate job growth.” Not true. Havenstein said Rose did not know how to encourage business to come to the state, and that “I would never hire him to work for me in that role.”
Moreover, it is the Legislature that provides DRED with its authority. If Havenstein does not think DRED has the proper power to bring businesses to the state, such as granting tax credits or creating enterprise zones, he should take it up with the seven Republican state senators who are probably wondering why they endorsed him.
Havenstein also may need a remedial course in New Hampshire civics, as evidenced by another exchange in Atkinson. Asked about a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution to ban discrimination based on gender orientation, Havenstein answered, “I will veto it, I won’t let it go into law...it’s not going to be signed by me.” Havenstein’s response made two things clear: he is opposed to the amendment, and he doesn’t know that the governor cannot veto a constitutional amendment. Is it too much to ask that a candidate for New Hampshire governor know more about the job than oh, say, the man in the moon?
Again, it gets worse. Havenstein’s response to Landrigan’s query on this segment of the fiasco in Atkinson was that he did not recall making any comment on sexual orientation. Given how emphatic he was in his Atkinson answer, his forgetfulness is not believable.
This is not the only case where Havenstein has brushed off previous positions. He once sat on the executive committee of the Business Higher Education Forum, a group of business and education executives. While Havenstein was on the board in 2010, BHEF endorsed the Common Core education standards, calling their adoption one of its top priorities. Now that he is running for governor, however, Havenstein says he opposes Common Core.
This pattern of tortured explanations, convenient memory loss and flip-flopping from week to week is not the “principled pragmatism” Havenstein’s campaign is marketing. It instead is the sign of a casual candidate who does not take the campaign or the voters seriously enough to educate himself on the issues, the processes of state government, or even his own positions. New Hampshire voters deserve more respect than that.
Kathy Sullivan is a Manchester attorney and member of the Democratic National Committee. She was chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1999-2007.