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N.H. Democratic Gov. Hopefuls Square Off

  • Gubernatorial candidates Steve Marchand left, and Mark Connolly are seen during a live debate at WGIR radio station Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Democratic gubernatorial candidates Steve Marchand, right, and Mark Connolly are seen during a live debate at WGIR radio station Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Democtaic gubernatorial candidates, from left, Colin Van Ostern, Steve Marchand and Mark Connolly get a briefing before a live debate at WGIR radio station Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Democratic gubernatorial candidates Colin Van Ostern speaks during a live debate at WGIR radio station Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Democratic gubernatorial Steve Marchand speaks during a live debate at WGIR radio station Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mark Connolly speaks during a live debate at WGIR radio station Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Democratic gubernatorial Colin VanOstern speaks during a live debate at WGIR radio station Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)



Associated Press
Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Manchester — Three men seeking the Democratic nomination for New Hampshire governor drew distinctions on Wednesday on marijuana policy, business taxes and gun control.

Former state securities regulator Mark Connolly, former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern faced each other for the third in a series of debates organized by New England College and hosted by WGIR radio.

While all three support decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, only Marchand supports fully legalizing its recreational use, in part because he believes doing so could produce $30 million in annual revenue.

He used the issue to argue that his opponents have failed to be specific about how they would pay for their various proposals and criticized Van Ostern for saying marijuana legalization is a low priority compared to the state’s heroin and opioid abuse crisis.

“If you’re serious about doing this, you have to look at marijuana legalization as an element of it,” Marchand said. “We’ve got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time with public policy, or we shouldn’t be governor.”

The candidates also disagreed on the future of the state’s two main corporate taxes — the Business Enterprise Tax and the Business Profits Tax, both of which were lowered in the most recent state budget.

Marchand favors increasing the enterprise tax — essentially a tax on a business’ wages — and lowering the profits tax, which targets income earned from business activity. Connolly said he opposes the recent decision lowering the rates, but would leave them alone if he’s elected. Van Ostern likewise said he wouldn’t change them.

“The last budget was the result of compromise, and I don’t think going back to unravel that compromise is going to advance our state or our economy,” he said. “What is absolutely critical for a growing New Hampshire business is predictability. They do not deserve to be treated like a yo-yo at the end of a string.”

On gun control, all three back universal background checks before gun purchases, but Connolly went further, backing a ban on military-style assault weapons.

“We are the ‘Live Free or Die’ state. That’s our heritage, but I think we need to do more than that,” he said.

The three men are among five Democrats and five Republicans hoping to replace Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate.

The primary is set for Sept. 13.