CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A consultant, two business lawyers and a business professor are among the choices voters have in Tuesday’s primary election for New Hampshire governor.
Republican Kevin Smith, a 35-year-old consultant from Litchfield, says his bold ideas combined with his youthful energy are needed. His chief rival is 54-year-old Manchester lawyer Ovide Lamontagne, who stresses his experience as a business lawyer and working with charities makes him better qualified.
Robert Tarr, a 43-year-old unemployed store manager from Manchester, also is on the GOP ballot.
On the Democratic side, 61-year-old business professor and former state Sen. Jackie Cilley of Barrington is known for her TV ad portraying those who take the state’s traditional pledge against income and sales taxes as zombies unwilling to consider all options to provide the resources government needs to pay for the roads, bridges and education businesses need to prosper.
Her main rival is former Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan, a 54-year-old lawyer from Exeter who argues the key to prosperity is education. Hassan says an educated workforce is the place to start in rebuilding the economy. She would restore aid cut under Republicans to the University System of New Hampshire in exchange for a tuition freeze and more slots for resident students.
Hassan says she had to bring people together as Senate majority leader to get results and would do the same as governor.
“I oppose an income tax and sales tax because I know we can fund our priorities without it,” she said.
Retired Air Force Maj. Bill Kennedy, a 52-year-old inn owner from Danbury, also is on the ballot. He proposes a flat rate income tax to ease the tax burden off property taxpayers.
They seek to replace retiring Democrat Gov. John Lynch, a popular moderate who won four two-year terms. Republicans are eager after eight years to reclaim the governor’s seat, but candidates in both parties are struggling to get voters to recognize their names. In a poll done last month, undecided was the winner.
Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, believes the Democratic contest is a toss-up that will be decided largely by turnout. A lower turnout favors Cilley because Democrats don’t like their candidates handcuffed by a Republican-created, anti-tax pledge, he said. Unlike Hassan, Cilley refuses to promise to veto personal income or sales taxes. New Hampshire has neither.
“Jackie’s message is much more resonant for people voting in the primary,” he said. “Even those swayed by Maggie Hassan being more electable (in November) wish they had someone who did not take the pledge.”
Smith believes a moderate to high turnout favors Hassan more because she will draw out voters who care less about the tax pledge.
In the Republican race, Lamontagne is better known having run three past unsuccessful campaigns. He is making his second bid for governor. He lost in 1996 to Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, now a U.S. senator. Lamontagne also lost GOP primaries in 1992 for Congress and 2010 for U.S. Senate.
Lamontagne stresses his conservative roots — he is opposed to abortion and gay marriage — but Smith also shares those views and lobbied for abortion limits and repealing gay marriage when he was executive director of Cornerstone Action. Neither has shied away from their positions, which are opposite of positions held by Hassan and Cilley, but neither has made them a primary theme of their campaigns.
Lamontagne and Smith instead have stressed their differences with Democrats over business tax policy. Unlike their main Democratic rivals, Lamontagne and Smith both propose cutting business taxes and paying for them with budget cuts.
Andy Smith said Kevin Smith’s biggest hurdle may be that voters don’t know who he is.
Hassan and Lamontagne also have each raised almost four times as much money as Cilley and Smith to build organizations.
Kevin Smith is counting on undecided voters making up their minds after Thursday’s televised debate.
“We’re closing very strong,” he said.
Cilley believes her zombie ad gave her the name recognition she needs to prevail. She said she has a sequel in mind if she wins the primary, but will not turn her campaign into the zombie campaign.
“Some people like my name: ‘I’m Jackie Cilley, let’s get serious,'” she said and laughed.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.