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Kathy Sullivan: Governor's race gives voters a clear choice

September 17. 2018 5:20PM

IN NOVEMBER, New Hampshire voters have distinctly different candidates to choose from in the race for governor. Anyone who buys the theory that the Democratic and Republican parties are not that different needs to read up on former state Sen. Molly Kelly and incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu. Here are some issues that we may be hearing about over the next few weeks on which the candidates disagree.

One is education. A major Sununu priority this past legislative session was enacting a bill that some called school choice and others called a voucher system. No matter the name, it would have diverted tax dollars from local public schools to pay for private and religious school tuition. Despite the governor’s support, the bill failed on a close vote.

Molly Kelly has pledged to veto any bill that diverts tax dollars from public schools to pay tuition at non-public schools. She has promised to close corporate tax breaks, using the funds to strengthen public education, and to make college more affordable.

Their positions on guns are also very different. Kelly believes in universal background checks, and reinstating the concealed weapons permit requirement. She would institute a 48-hour waiting period before gun purchases. She would adopt a red flag law permitting police or family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from someone who presents a danger to themselves or others.

Sununu signed the law repealing the requirement for a concealed carry permit. He has an A rating from the NRA, and told reporters in February that any new gun laws should only be considered at the federal, not the state, level. He does not favor red flag laws.​

The question of paid family and medical leave also shows distinctions between the candidates. Sununu has said he supports the concept, but opposed a bill establishing the program, claiming it needed more fiscal analysis. Supporters said they felt betrayed by Sununu, as they had made significant changes to the bipartisan bill to address his concerns. Kelly favors the bill.​

The discussion over paid family and medical leave became more interesting recently when Sununu referred to family and medical leave as a four- or six-week “vacation.” The bill, however, only permitted the use of the leave for childbirth, adoption, or serious health conditions of an employee or an employee’s family member, none of which could be considered vacations. We’ll definitely hear a lot more about this.​

There are other significant areas of disagreement. Kelly opposes Northern Pass, Sununu supports the project. Kelly stresses her support for renewable energy. She helped to enact the first group net metering legislation, and supports expansion. Sununu vetoed a bill that would have raised the ceiling on net metering.​

Kelly refuses to take corporate contributions. Sununu has received donations from energy companies such as Eversource and Alliance Coal, pharmaceutical giants like Eli Lily, and financial institutions like Bank of America.​

When running for his first term, Sununu opposed a New Hampshire minimum wage and any increase in the federal minimum wage above $10. Kelly supports a New Hampshire minimum wage of $15.

One thing they agree on is that both would veto a sales or an income tax.​

There also is a Libertarian candidate, Jilletta Jarvis. According to her web page, she opposes any gun laws, believing in an armed citizenry. She wants to reduce the state budget, decrease government regulation, eliminate party affiliation requirements for ballot access, and refuses to take money from fossil-fuel companies. Given that she is outside the major two-party structure, she has a long row to hoe. However, third-party candidates have affected election outcomes in the past.

Although the candidates will be talking primarily about state issues, there also is the looming issue of Donald Trump. Sununu is a strong Trump supporter; Kelly is not. I do not know where Jarvis stands.​

Given the record-setting Democratic turnout across the country, and especially here in New Hampshire, it is apparent that Democrats are energized and want to send the President a message. If that continues into November, it may be the biggest issue of all, helping to make Sununu a one-term governor.

Manchester’s Kathy Sullivan is the former chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

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