At Tuck School Forum, Ayotte and Hassan Voice Agreement

  • New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan gives opening remarks during a forum at Cook Auditorium at the Tuck School of Business in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 13, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte gives her opening remarks during a forum at Cook Auditorium at the Tuck School of Business in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 13, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Tuck Business school student Kim Misher asks New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan a question during a forum at Cook Auditorium at the Tuck School of Business in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 13, 2016. (Valley News- Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 10/14/2016 12:23:34 AM
Modified: 10/14/2016 5:52:55 PM

Hanover — Competing in one of the country’s closest and most closely watched U.S. Senate contests, incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte and her Democratic challenger Gov. Maggie Hassan broke from the familiar debate fracas on Thursday afternoon to engage instead in a civil discussion about key issues, on which there was little disagreement.

The stakes are high for this election since New Hampshire is regarded as one of a handful of states that could influence the outcome of the presidential election as well as the composition of the Republican-controlled senate.

The exchange on issues including the economic impact of globalization, Syria and the role of women in public life, among others, was billed as a “forum” rather than a debate by the sponsor, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business. About 200 people, mostly students, attended the event in Cook Auditorium.

The candidates, who throughout the program emphasized their efforts to achieve bipartisan political consensus, did not appear together during the two-hour session.

Presidential aspirants Clinton and Trump were not mentioned once.

After brief introductory remarks by Tuck Dean Matthew Slaughter and John Lynch, the former New Hampshire governor, who currently lectures at the school, each candidate was asked questions separately, first by Tuck associate professor Emily Blanchard and then by students.

Blanchard started with Hassan.

“Most (Tuck students) will begin working at the kinds of big firms — the so-called big business that has been maligned enormously of late in popular perception and sometimes in political rhetoric,” Blanchard said. “Words like ‘rapacious,’ ‘unscrupulous,’ ‘out of touch’ are often used to describe the consulting firms, investment banks or multinationals where our students will go, candidly, after graduation.”

Do businesses have a broader obligation to society at large, Blanchard asked, and what are the important things that firms need to do?

Hassan acknowledged the problems and said that experience in New Hampshire demonstrates that when government and the private sector work closely together it is possible to stimulate growth, create jobs and do social good.

She cited the “B-Corp” law, which went into effect last year. Under that law, New Hampshire joined several other states in permitting and encouraging businesses to be formed as “benefit corporations,” that pursue profits as well as community or social responsibility.

Ayotte, in response to the same question later in the program, said that companies that exhibit social and community responsibility tend to attract better workers.

She mentioned a financial firm in Manchester that has been helping improve education programs and infrastructure in a middle school in that city.

Blanchard, a trade economist, asked both candidates to discuss root causes of what she termed growing public disenchantment with economic globalization and trade agreements between the United States and other countries. And, she asked, how would they, as senators, address the issue.

Both candidates agreed that the benefits of these developments are not being shared broadly or fairly and the costs, in terms of job disruption and loss, are being borne mainly by the nation’s lower and middle economic classes. This, they said, inspires resentment.

They also agreed that one key to addressing the problem is to improve education, and more rapid skills training opportunities for affected workers, particularly though community colleges. Hassan emphasized the need for more federal government grant money to help avoid student debt problems. Ayotte noted that trade adjustment assistance is necessary for affected workers but we “need to help develop the right kind of skills to help workers transition better (to new jobs).”

Blanchard and some students asked about the candidates’ view of the United States’ role in the world and specifically what the Syrian strategy should be.

On this there was a slight difference of opinion.

Both candidates agreed that the United States needed to improve its economic and military strength in order to maintain global leadership but should work more closely with allies, particularly NATO, in combating threats from terrorists and what they called growing Russian aggression.

On Syria, Ayotte said that if the Obama administration had engaged militarily earlier without “false threats of a red line in the sand …” the situation might not have been as bad as she said it is now. Hassan said the objective should be to “defeat ISIS, increase air strikes, provide more military support to the Kurds.” Neither candidate said she would support putting American combat troops into Syria.

Five senate seats held by women are up for election in the 2016 cycle.

On the issue of women in public service, Ayotte noted that she was the first female attorney general in New Hampshire and “that may be helpful for other women to realize what is possible.

“My 11-year-old daughter, for example, looks at the world differently,” she said. “She thinks it is obvious that she could become president.”

Hassan agreed that “girls and women need to see women operating in public office at all levels.”

“Women bring perspectives that are different (from men) and this country needs that,” she said. “Serving in public office is the best thing I have ever done, except marrying my husband and having children.”

The candidates have agreed to participate in six public debates throughout the state. The first two, already held, revealed sharper differences on certain issues than Thursday night’s exchange.

CORRECTION

In prefacing a question to Gov. Maggie Hassan about businesses’ social responsibility, Tuck School of Business associate professor Emily Blanchard said, “Most (Tuck students) will begin working at the kinds of big firms — the so-called big business that has been maligned enormously of late in popular perception and sometimes in political rhetoric. Words like ‘rapacious,’ ‘unscrupulous,’ ‘out of touch’ are often used to describe the consulting firms, investment banks or multinationals where our students will go, candidly, after graduation.” An earlier version of this story misquoted Blanchard.




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