Friday November 2, 2012

CONCORD, N.H. -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maggie Hassan and Republican rival Ovide Lamontagne told viewers of their final televised debate Thursday that the negative ads about them aren’t true.

Hassan and Lamontagne spent an hour sparring in their final debate before Tuesday’s election. The debate was televised by WMUR-TV and co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader and AARP of New Hampshire.

Hassan said an ad claiming she pays no property taxes ignores the fact her family is required to live in housing owned by Phillips Exeter Academy as part of her husband’s job.

"I wish we did own the home. We don’t. We live there because we are required to because of my husband’s job," said Hassan.

Hassan said the real issue should be which of them would better protect property taxpayers and she claimed her record proves she is that person.

Lamontagne said the ad isn’t his and he wished he had the money to produce one targeted to his own issues. For his part, Lamontagne said an ad claiming he is a lobbyist is false. He said just because his law firm has a lobbying section does not make him a lobbyist.

As they have in their ads, each candidate tried to frame the other’s views on key issues.

Lamontagne accused Hassan of making a false promise to veto personal income and general sales taxes because she opposes a constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban an income tax.


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"I don’t think we should make fiscal policy in the constitution. We should amend it very narrowly," replied Hassan, who reiterated her pledge to veto the taxes.

Hassan said women shouldn’t trust Lamontagne when he says regardless of his opposition to abortion, he would lack the power to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision that makes abortion legal. As governor, she said, he would have the power to limit access, and cited a Texas law requiring women to go through "an invasive medical procedure."

"We’re going to work together to deal with the issue as the law allows," Lamontagne said.

The two also differed on who could best run the state.

Hassan said as a former state Senate majority leader she had helped make tough spending decisions to balance the state budget in a recession.

Lamontagne argued those budgets contained tax and fee hikes and required a special legislative session to close a $300 million hole. He said the budget he proposed would contain no tax increases.

"My budgeting will be true, honest and transparent," he said.

He declined to specify what agencies might be eliminated.

Hassan said he would continue the radical cutting done by the current Republican Legislature. As an example, she pointed to a deep cut to a program that helps troubled youth before they commit a crime. She said police have told her most children can’t get help now unless they do commit a crime.

She said she has not promised to restore all the cuts at once.

Hassan says she has been specific about the revenue measures she endorses: a 10 cent increase in the cigarette tax, hiring more auditors to review business tax returns, discussing a way to fix roads and bridges and perhaps allow a high-end casino along the Massachusetts border.

The two -- neither of whom has been in a casino -- differed on how a casino should be approved. Lamontagne said Rockingham Park race track is the best choice economically.

Hassan said the location should be decided by bid and said she was concerned because the race track is a client of Lamontagne’s firm.

"It doesn’t instill confidence to have a candidate for governor say he’s pre-selected a site," she said.

Lamontagne said he would not be affiliated with his firm if elected. A bill naming the track would go through the normal legislative process, he said.

"There is nothing more transparent or open than the legislative process," he said.

Both tried to link themselves to retiring Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who remains very popular.

Lynch endorsed Hassan, who said she had worked with him when she was in the Senate and learned it is critical to be accessible to all people.

"He treats the office like a small town mayor," said Lamontagne.

But Lamontagne said he would be more of a leader than Lynch.

Both said they support legalizing medical marijuana, oppose requiring helmets for motorcycle riders and oppose term limits for governor.

Hassan said she would veto a bill to repeal gay marriage; Lamontagne said he would sign such a bill only if it respected existing gay unions and replaced gay marriage with civil unions. Hassan opposed teaching creationism in public schools; Lamontagne said he would oppose it in his own school but the decision should be left to the local community.

Both are business lawyers. Lamontagne is 55 and lives in Manchester; Hassan, 54, lives in Exeter.