Hassan Promises Bipartisan Approach If She Topples Ayotte

  • Gov. Maggie Hassan, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate answers a question during an editorial board meeting in West Lebanon, N.H., on Oct. 24, 2016. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/25/2016 12:26:57 AM
Modified: 10/25/2016 12:27:02 AM

Lebanon — Gov. Maggie Hassan struck at the record of Sen. Kelly Ayotte on Monday, saying the Republican has a history of voting in favor of special interests over the needs of Granite Staters.

The Democratic governor is locked in a tight race with Ayotte, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 2011. Recent polls place the contenders neck and neck for the seat, which could determine which party controls the Senate.

“Her entire campaign is really an attempt to walk back what is a very conservative record at odds with the priorities and values of the people of New Hampshire,” Hassan said during an interview with the Valley News editorial board.

During her two terms as governor, Hassan said, the state adopted fiscally responsible budgets, invested in public infrastructure and enacted the state’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The state also committed to combating the opioid crisis and froze college tuition under her leadership, Hassan said.

“We did this the New Hampshire way, just coming together,” Hassan said, adding that Washington should operate in a bipartisan manner.

The governor said her actions stand in contrast to Ayotte’s, who Hassan said voted to cut Pell Grant funding and provide tax breaks to oil companies.

“Ayotte has stood with her party and with the interests that back it at the expense of the people of our state repeatedly,” she said.

The Ayotte campaign refutes those claims, saying the senator co-sponsored legislation in support of the Pell Grant program and supported bills to end tax breaks and subsidies for oil firms.

“Contrary to Hassan’s false claims, Kelly supports Pell Grants and is backing legislation with (Democratic) Sen. Tim Kaine to expand them to include skills training,” Ayotte spokeswoman Liz Johnson said in an email. “She was the first Republican senator to support the president’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions, and she has voted to end specific tax breaks for oil and coal.”

Hassan said the two differ on other issues as well, such as gun control. She supports expanding background checks to include firearms purchases made online and at gun shows, while Ayotte is in favor of banning sales only to those on the terror watch list.

While she supports Second Amendment rights, Hassan said, she also sees the need to balance those rights with the safety of others, which is why this year she vetoed legislation that would have done away with concealed-carry permits.

“Like all constitutional rights, we balance one right with another right: the right of people to be safe,” she said.

The governor also criticized Ayotte’s stance toward the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland. Ayotte has declined to support a hearing on Garland’s nomination until after the election.

Hassan said the constitution says it’s the Senate’s job to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominations.

“The constitution doesn’t say that those are the rules for election years,” she said. “It doesn’t say that people should do their job up until election years. It says they were supposed to have this process.”

The Supreme Court needs all nine justices to prevent gridlock, said Hassan, who advocates for New Hampshire’s system of nominating judges through a bipartisan committee.

“I think that’s the way we should be looking at judicial confirmations at the national level, making sure that nominees are qualified, making sure that they have the temperament and character not only to be a judge but to make people who interact with the judicial system feel heard,” she said.

Hassan said her first job as governor has been to keep people safe, which is why her administration supported an increase in state police troopers, active shooter trainings and public safety plans for schools.

Safety also weighs heavily on her foreign policy stances. Hassan said she is in favor of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying it is the only way to keep the Middle Eastern nation from obtaining nuclear weapons. She also has taken stances opposing the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and supported putting a temporary freeze on Syrian refugees coming to New Hampshire.

On mental health, Hassan is calling for more programs and funds to help combat the opioid crisis. Her administration also has been criticized in past months over a recent state contact with Dartmouth-Hitchcock for care at New Hampshire Hospital, the state’s psychiatric hospital in Concord.

Shortly after the contract was approved, Dartmouth-Hitchcock announced layoffs at some of its facilities, but Hassan says the terms of that contract are closely monitored to protect patients.

“I think it is extraordinarily concerning that the care of the state’s most vulnerable population has been politicized the way it has been,” she said.

The state Republican Party filed a lawsuit on Monday arguing Hassan’s administration hasn’t been forthright in providing emails, including ones on the Dartmouth-Hitchcock contract. New Hampshire governors are exempt from the state’s right-to-know law, Hassan said, and information is only redacted from public records requests when it contains private or proprietary information.

“These are baseless and manufactured claims,” she said, referring to the lawsuit.

Instead of politicking over emails, Hassan said she intends to focus on helping Granite Staters find work, live healthy lives and be more prosperous.

“I think that this election is really about us all taking a moment to remember a common vision and the extraordinary capacity that Granite Staters and Americans have to move forward and be the greatest force for good as they continue to have an inclusive economy where everyone has a shot at success,” she said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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