Economy, job creation among topics tackled at Derry candidates forum
DERRY — The state and federal budget, the economic climate and the need to make New Hampshire more welcoming to small businesses were among the topics taking center stage at the Stockbridge Theatre Thursday morning.
The Aug. 14 Pre-Primary Candidates Breakfast Forum represented a first for the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, though it won’t likely be the last.
Bonnie Roberts, president of the organizations’ board of directors, said she wants the event to become a tradition in the region.
“Hopefully, this will help people make their decisions for the Sept. 9 primary,” she said.
Audience members heard five-minute talks from the 16 candidates, including contenders for N.H. Senate, Executive Council, U.S. House, U.S. Senate and governor.
While there was not time for a question-and-answer period, locals were encouraged to mingle with the candidates before and after the forum.
Republican Walt Havenstein was the sole gubernatorial candidate to attend.
A retired Marine Corps colonel and former chief executive officer of BAE Systems Inc., Havenstein told the crowd that he doesn’t consider himself a politician, but he decided to run for governor out of concern for the state’s future.
“The fact of the matter is we have a ‘Walking Dead’ economy under Maggie Hassan,” he said of the current governor. “I’m here because we need to get our economy moving again.”
Later, Havenstein spoke of his jobs plan, noting that if he’s elected this November, he’d propose business profit tax reductions and also “help create an environment where we can grow our economy.”
Six state Senate candidates from Districts 14, 19, 22 and 23 spoke at the forum, including Republicans Regina Birdsell, Sharon Carson, Jim Foley and Frank Sapareto, and Democrats Kate Messner and Kristie St. Laurent.
Representing the Districts 3 and 4 Executive Council races were Republicans Jim Adams and Chris Sununu, and Democrats Robin McLane and Chris Pappas.
“We need to control the state’s spending,” said Adams, who told the audience he favored “small government, low taxes and helping those in need.”
McLane stressed the important role of the state’s five executive councilors.
“It only takes three people to stop our governor from acting on many issues,” she said.
Pappas, co-owner of the Puritan Backroom restaurant in Manchester, said he’d bring a businessman’s ideology to the role if elected.
“In my line of work, we need to offer good value as well as good customer service,” he said. “Really, an Executive Councilor should be an ombudsman for business owners.”
District 3 incumbent Sununu, who owns the Waterville Valley ski resort, spoke of the need to “bring transparency back to Concord.”
Representing the Districts 1 and 2 U.S. representatives races were Republicans Frank Guinta, Dan Innis, Everett Jabour and Gary Lambert.
Guinta, a former Manchester mayor and ex-congressman, said his top priorities would be “balancing the budget, reforming taxes and being mindful of the size and scope of federal government.”
Innis cited a recent Gallup poll indicating the economy is now one of America’s most pressing issues.
“Fewer than half of us believe the American Dream still exists,” said Innis, who owns a 32-room hotel in Portsmouth. “As I look at the world my kids see, I know we have to change our course.”
Jabour, who owns a small construction business, said his campaign slogan is written on his business card: “U.S. Government Is out of Control.”
“Right now our country has the highest government tax rate on the planet,” Jabour said. “Unless we shrink our government down and expand manufacturing on our home soil, we will continue on our debt-ridden path.
Lambert, a 35-year veteran of the Marine Corps, said he “sees a lot of dysfunction in Congress.”
“They seem to have forgotten our small business owners,” he said.
Lambert said some of his other top priorities would be “securing the borders, repealing Obamacare and making sure our veterans get the care they deserve.”
Republican Bob Heghmann, the sole U.S. Senate candidate to attend, spoke of the national debt.
“Right now, our new normal is a deficit of $500 billion to a trillion,” the attorney said. “We are watching the collapse of U.S. currency under the world money market.”