- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Former defense contractor Walt Havenstein on Wednesday joined the race to become New Hampshire’s next governor, stressing his business credentials as the proper tools to help improve what he called the state’s flagging economy.

Havenstein, a Republican, said incumbent Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has good intentions but not the experience to create jobs and lure businesses here.

Gov. Hassan is a good person, but she doesn’t know what to do to end the stagnation and get New Hampshire’s economy moving again,” he said at a news conference in the Legislative Office Building. “It’s all about economic growth and job creation.”

High-profile figures from the Republican Party stood behind him, including former Govs. Steve Merrill and Craig Benson, Senate President Chuck Morse and Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, and Executive Councilor Chris Sununu.

“In a governor’s race that has contrast, that’s an exciting race,” Merrill said as he introduced Havenstein. “This is a contrast race.”

Hassan’s spokesman said the governor is focused on the state’s priorities.

“She will continue working to bring people together to reach bipartisan solutions that will strengthen our middle class, support job-creating businesses, and keep New Hampshire’s economy moving forward,” Marc Goldberg said.

Havenstein, 64, is former chief executive officer at BAE Systems, a defense company with about 4,000 workers in Nashua and 37,000 nationwide. While leading the company, he managed a budget nearly three times the size of New Hampshire’s $10.7 billion, two-year spending plan, he said.

He criticized the Affordable Care Act and the recent expansion of Medicaid to some 58,000 people in New Hampshire, saying both were examples of big government. On the expansion of Medicaid, which was approved by Republicans and Democrats alike and paid for by the federal government for three years, he worries that the state will be left paying the full price eventually.

“I don’t trust the federal government to fulfill its obligations in perpetuity,” he said.

Havenstein also opposes expanding casino gambling, saying he was disappointed that it was the “centerpiece” of Hassan’s economic development plan. He also recognizes the need to improve roads and bridges but opposes an increase in the gas tax. Havenstein also opposes a broad-based tax and repealing the death penalty.

Republican Andrew Hemingway also is seeking the GOP nomination for the chance to challenge Hassan. His campaign said he looks forward to debating key issues with Havenstein.

Democrats have said Havenstein is ineligible to run for office because he claimed a tax exemption on a condominium in Maryland. On Wednesday, the candidate said his domicile is in New Hampshire, he has voted here for the past 15 years and he is confident he is eligible to run for office. He said he will not release tax records and won’t ask his opponents to release them.