- Associated Press - Thursday, June 12, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Incumbent Gov. Maggie Hassan officially entered the race for a second term Thursday and defended an upcoming trip to Turkey as an important economic development effort.

Filing her candidacy papers with the Secretary of State Bill Gardner, Hassan, a first-term Democrat, said businesses around the state tell her it’s important to expand international trade relationships. Hassan said Turkey is the state’s 12th-largest trading partner and a growing player in the aerospace market.

Republicans criticized Hassan for the $15,000 trip in light of her request for a freeze on hiring and unnecessary travel. In the packed hallway at the Statehouse on Thursday, a man dressed in a turkey costume was a visual reminder of the controversy but she said the trip is an important economic tool.

“It’s important to focus on how we can strengthen international trade,” she said.

Later Thursday, Republican entrepreneur Andrew Hemingway filed his paperwork to run for governor, joining a primary contest against retired business executive Walt Havenstein. Democrats have said Havenstein hasn’t been a state resident long enough to run for office here but Hemingway said he has no plans to challenge his residency.

Hemingway said Hassan’s Turkey trip “smells like baloney.

“I think it’s ridiculous that she’s spending taxpayer money on this trip,” he said, adding that the economic focus ought to be on doing business with and attracting entrepreneurs from places closer to home like Massachusetts, New York and Canada.

Hemingway is the founder of the Bristol-based high-tech company Digital Acumen and the former chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire. While signing his candidacy papers, he also signed a pledge to spend no more than $625,000 on the primary and, if successful there, in the November general election.

He said he would focus on growing the state’s economy and improving education.

“We can build the best educational system in the world,” he said.

Hassan said she would continue to focus on expanding the middle class, bolstering the economy and attract business. She pointed to a freeze in in-state college tuition, a doubling of the research and development tax credit and expansion of Medicaid and noted that the state’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008.

“We’ve been solving problems the New Hampshire way,” Hassan said. “New Hampshire is moving in the right direction because we have shown time and time again that we can work across the aisle to solve problems.”

Other bipartisan issues that Hassan touted including working with the legislature to settle litigation over the Medicaid Enhancement Tax, the state’s mental health system and women’s correctional facilities.

“But we still have more work to do,” she said.

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