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Gubernatorial debate heats up city hall



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Cos County Republican Committee vice-chair Eric Catman (at the podium) moderated in the heat last Thursday as the four candidates for the gubernatorial race debated in Berlin. The candidates, seated from left right: John Stephen, Karen Testerman, Jack Kimball and Frank Emiro. Erik Eisele. (click for larger version)
September 08, 2010
BERLIN — The four candidates vying for the Republican nomination to challenge Governor John Lynch in the election this fall came to Berlin on Thursday for a debate before the September 14 primary.

They sweated it out on stage in 80-degree heat, taking questions collected from the audience and from members of the press.

Former Health and Human Services commissioner John Stephen, considered by many to be the front-runner, spoke as if he were already in the general election. He used the opportunity to attack Governor Lynch's policies, urging voters to support lower taxes, smaller government, and a return to "New Hampshire values."

"We're not competitive," he said, "and we're heading in the wrong direction. We cannot sustain this government we have in New Hampshire.

The other three candidates, Karen Testerman, Jack Kimball and Frank Emiro, spent more time pointing out the differences between each other candidates.

Unlike the other candidates, Mr. Emiro said, "I have a voting record."

He told the roughly 35 people at the debate (many of whom were Republican and also candidates like Ovide Lamontagne and Bob Giuda, who came up to meet North Country residents and shake hands) his experience in the state legislature gives him the tools to get things done.

"You've got to have results, not promises," he said, and he's the candidate who has proven he can deliver.

Mr. Emiro broke from the other candidates on several issues, such as gay marriage, Divine rights and changes to the welfare system, proving himself to be a centrist.

"When you're in the State House you don't bring religion in, you do what the people you represent want," he said, responding to a question about whether he believes constitutional rights are granted by the Creator.

On what he would do about gay marriage he said, "I don't know who in this audience is gay or not. I really don't care."

That contrasted with the other three, who all said they would sign a bill to ban gay marriage if they were governor.

Mr. Kimball and Mrs. Testerman both championed social and fiscal conservatism.

"Life is a right, not an issue," Mrs. Testerman said in her opening remarks.

"I am a Reagan conservative. I believe in small government and family values," Mr. Kimball said.

"I want to see New Hampshire be the same state I moved to in 1993," Mrs. Testerman said.

"I am going to take a proactive role at pushing aback against our federal government," Mr. Kimball said.

He pointed to his credentials as a small business owner, saying he is the only candidate who has spent his life working in the private sector.

"I come to this as a business man and a patriot," he said. He wants to cut taxes, he said, so small business can flourish, and he warned if the LLC tax is not repealed it will "devastate" small business.

Mrs. Testerman was less concrete about what specific cuts or tax reductions she would like to make, but she warned the current size of government is unsustainable.

"It is wrong to be passing along our debt," she said. She criticized Governor Lynch for unfunded mandates. "Obviously the government does not listen to the people of New Hampshire."

Mr. Stephen stressed his fiscal credentials, but tread more lightly on social issues.

"There aren't a lot of differences," he said, referring to himself and the three other candidates, but he has cut budgets before. "I am a strong fiscal conservative. We need to make sure we get someone who can cut spending."

But there are differences between the candidates. Mr. Kimball pronounced his commitment to the right to bear arms, and he said he was prepared to go to battle against the federal government over state's rights issues.

Mr. Emiro, meanwhile, pointed out instances where the governor doesn't have the power to do what other candidates said they would do. Welfare, he said, is a federal program, and the governor can't force recipients to submit to drug tests, something Mr. Kimball said he would do.

The candidates avoided ever attacking each other outright, and the final decision will be made at the September 14 primary.

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