MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s videotaped remarks that nearly half of Americans are dependent on government had GOP gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne and Democratic rival Maggie Hassan promising Wednesday to represent everyone if elected.
The two met in their first forum at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.
"I want to be the governor for all the people," Lamontagne said in response to a question about Romney’s comment.
"I have a record for reaching across the aisle," Hassan said when her turn came.
Hassan, who has tried to cast Lamontagne as too conservative for New Hampshire, then questioned how Lamontagne could make his claim when he supports limiting abortion, which she says denies women’s right to make personal health care decisions.
Lamontagne, who opposes abortion, said abortion is legal in the country and he would enforce the law.
Hassan jumped in again to question if he would sign legislation limiting those women’s rights. Lamontagne repeated that he would obey the law of the land.
Hassan also pointed out Lamontagne had signed a pledge by the conservative Cornerstone Action that promotes abortion limits. The group on Monday came out with a legislative agenda it expects pledge signers to promote. One item on the agenda is passing comprehensive health insurance deregulation, Hassan said.
Lamontagne said he did not know what Hassan was talking about. He said he proposes seeking waivers from the federal government to tailor government-backed health plans to New Hampshire.
During the hourlong forum on business and the economy, the candidates said they present New Hampshire voters with a clear choice.
Lamontagne said he would apply a common-sense, limited government philosophy to governing that would free businesses to create jobs.
Hassan said businesses need government to support education so they have a skilled workforce. She also said recruiters have an easier time getting younger workers to take jobs in New Hampshire because the state respects women’s rights to make their own health decisions and marriage equality for gays.
"They are intertwined," she said.
Lamontagne said he did not believe social issues are relevant to the economy.
Hassan said she would restore nearly $50 million in annual state aid cuts to the University System of New Hampshire in exchange for a tuition freeze and opening of more slots for resident students. Asked how she would pay for it, Hassan said she would consider legalizing one, high-end gambling casino, hiring more auditors to ensure businesses paid correct taxes and raising the cigarette tax the dime it was cut by the current Republican Legislature.
Lamontagne touted his economic plan that includes reducing the tax on business profits from 8.5 percent to 8 percent over two years. He said it would be better to help individual students with tuition than to pump money into the university system bureaucracy. He claimed he could modernize state government’s technology and save $100 million to $300 million a year in bureaucratic costs.
In one light moment, the two business lawyers were asked what business they would open if they had not become lawyers. Lamontagne said he would be a contractor; Hassan, anything to do with dogs or animals.
The two are vying to fill the seat opened up by Democratic Gov. John Lynch’s retirement.