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Republican gubernatorial candidates discuss economy, Lynch



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REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES (l to r) Jack Kimball, Karen Testerman, Frank Emiro, and John Stephen pose for pictures after the recent forum in Barnstead. Weston Sager. (click for larger version)
July 21, 2010
BARNSTEAD — Republican gubernatorial candidates discussed the economy and took aim at Gov. John Lynch at a Barnstead-Alton Republican Committee (BARC) Gubernatorial Candidates' Forum last Tuesday evening at J.J. Goodwin's Restaurant in Barnstead.

With the gubernatorial primary a mere two months away, candidates Karen Testerman, John Stephen, Jack Kimball and Frank Emiro all made their case for the republican nomination. The winner of the Sept. 14 primary will likely face Gov. Lynch, the presumed Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

Sitting on elevated bar chairs in the center of a packed restaurant, each candidate fielded questions submitted by members of the community.

Opening remarks

The candidates began by attempting to distinguish themselves from one another.

"It's time we quit electing 'just another Republican,'" said grassroots advocate Karen Testerman, who used her opening remarks to champion family values and the reform of various state agencies.

"The family is the bedrock of society," said Testerman.

Former Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen, who ran unsuccessfully against State Senator Jeb Bradley during the 2008 Congressional District 1 Republican Primary, followed by advocating fiscal conservatism.

"I will issue an executive order for a balanced budget," said Stephen. "New Hampshire must be run like a business."

Jack Kimball, a successful New Hampshire entrepreneur and businessman, also cast himself as a fiscal conservative.

"I am a businessman and a patriot," said Kimball. "And I am unafraid to reduce the size and scope of government."

State Rep. Frank Emiro, a relative unknown in the gubernatorial race, stressed his ability to reform through legislative bargaining, and did not shy away from tough talk about Gov. Lynch.

"Smiley-face needs to go," said Emiro in reference to Lynch. "The state government isn't listening to us."

Taxes, government regulations and the economy

Although the candidates differed on style, they all agreed New Hampshire needs more jobs, smaller government and lower taxes.

Testerman supported eliminating state-run agencies if they were found to be illegal under the state constitution and if they failed to provide real benefits to the people. She also favored small business tax reform.

"We can create jobs when we get state government off the backs of small businesses," she said. "We have to get rid of the regulations that are crippling them."

In addition to spending cuts and tax cuts, Emiro favored improving the economic climate in the state to retain recent college graduates and building a high-speed non-Amtrak public transportation system to create jobs. He put his faith in a people-centric, legislative approach to budgetary reform.

"We really need to trim the budget," said Emiro. "And I know who to contact to make it happen."

Kimball touted across-the-board spending cuts, welfare reform, educational reform and lower taxes to spur job creation and make New Hampshire more attractive to businesses in the region. He maintained many problems in the state government are attributable to an overemphasis on spending.

"The New Hampshire budget is out of control," he said. "We've got to reduce spending."

Stephen, too, advocated for across-the-board spending cuts and government reform. He put forth the idea of repealing certain taxes during harsh economic climates and cutting taxes for New Hampshire businesses.

"The New Hampshire advantage is being squandered," said Stephen. "We must bring reform to our regulatory agencies."

Healthcare

Stephen voiced his distaste for "ObamaCare," the recently passed federal national healthcare system, saying he would pursue a lawsuit against it as governor. He also advocated a private-sector solution to high healthcare costs through putting elective surgeries "up to bid" in order to find the lowest rate.

Kimball believed tort reform would help lower fees, and like Stephen, supported joining those states that have already filed lawsuits in protest of "ObamaCare."

Testerman sought to return federal healthcare money to the people of New Hampshire as both an economic measure and as a way of promoting states' rights.

Emiro agreed with the field that healthcare costs were too high.

Education funding

Emiro acknowledged the problems surrounding New Hampshire education funding are grave.

"There is no quick fix," he said.

Kimball said he was a stalwart supporter of vouchers as a means of "injecting competition" into the school system.

"The money should follow the student," he said.

Stephen advocated restoring "local control" to the school districts. He warned the audience that a sales or income tax is on the horizon to remedy the issues regarding school funding.

Testerman called for a reform of the Department of Education, which she believes "isn't doing the job it's supposed to be doing."

Immigration reform

Audience members were eager to hear what each of the candidates had to say about the recent controversial Arizona immigration reforms, particularly in regards to states' rights.

Kimball aggressively defended Arizona's measures to combat illegal immigration.

"[Arizona's immigration reform] is about enforcing the rule of law," said Kimball.

Stephen called for a meeting of the governors to discuss how to better enforce illegal immigration and support states' rights.

"It's about state sovereignty," he said.

Emiro believed it was important to stop illegal immigration and to uphold states' rights.

Testerman similarly supported Arizona's reforms, adding, "We need to stand up against the federal government."

Gay rights

When it came to the issue of gay rights, there was a marked divide between candidates.

Both Testerman and Stephen said they would repeal the bill legalizing gay marriage signed by Governor Lynch in June 2009.

Emiro supported gay rights despite voting against it twice in the legislature. He said "two consenting adults" should be able to wed regardless of sexual orientation.

Kimball said he believed marriage should only be between "a man and a woman," but did not explicitly state he would overturn the current gay marriage law.

Closing remarks

In their closing remarks, the candidates advanced their case for why the crowd should support them in the gubernatorial primary on September 14.

Emiro reiterated the importance of interpersonal communication in government. He cited his experience in the New Hampshire state legislature and his experience in the New York political system as evidence of his ability to push through legislation.

"You've got to talk to people," he said.

Kimball said electing aggressive state politicians such as him would help the country regain its "liberty and freedom." He maintained the upcoming election was "the most important in my lifetime," and urged the audience to vote in the September primary and the November general election.

In her closing remarks, Testerman referenced the U.S. Declaration of Independence to argue that what the government perceives as issues are actually rights and should be treated as such. She promised to "stand up to the bureaucratic bullies" on the state and federal levels.

Stephen promised not only to fulfill the traditional duties of governor, but also to act as "Salesman in Chief" in order to court more business to the state. He compared his style of leadership to former President Ronald Reagan and vowed to "show Gov. Lynch that raising taxes and increasing spending is not the New Hampshire way."

Charlie Arlinghaus, President of the non-partisan Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, moderated the forum.

Organizer Alan Glassman unveiled a large American flag cake following the conclusion of the candidates' remarks. It was in honor of Arlinghaus' birthday.

Replays of the debate can be seen on the local public access channel.

For more information about future BARC events, reference the BARC Web site at www.barc-newhampshire.com.

Weston Sager can be reached at 569-3126 or wsager@salmonpress.com

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