- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

DOVER, N.H. (AP) - Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein called Gov. Maggie Hassan soft on crime Wednesday during a campaign stop.

“As governor, I will make law and order a priority and will veto any attempt to release violent offenders early,” said Havenstein, who is challenging the Democratic governor for the seat.

Havenstein’s criticism centered on a bill Hassan co-sponsored as a state senator that allowed early parole for criminals. U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and state Senate candidate Eddie Edwards, a former law enforcement officer, joined Havenstein for the discussion with about a dozen voters.

The 2010 bill required non-violent offenders to be released shortly after reaching the minimum sentences. Additionally, all criminals who hadn’t previously violated parole, including violent ones, would be released nine months before the end of their maximum sentence. Several Republicans co-sponsored the bill, which aimed to cut down on prison costs and reduce recidivism. The bill required nine months of post-release supervision for all criminals.

FBI crime statistics show violent crime spiked in New Hampshire between 2010 and 2011. The next legislature passed a bill that gave authority back to the parole board to decide whether violent criminals should get early release.

Havenstein said if elected, he would support laws that make sure criminal sentences are fulfilled.

“It’s not economics; It’s morality, it’s justice,” he said.

Hassan’s campaign said law enforcement and judges supported the law.

“It’s disgraceful that Havenstein is politicizing public safety and following the lead of his tea party allies with these baseless attacks,” Hassan campaign spokesman Aaron Jacobs said.

Corey MacDonald, deputy police chief in Portsmouth, said during the event that it’s been difficult for law enforcement to get state funding, particularly after the 2010-2011 Republican-led Legislature’s “slash and burn” budget.

In response, Havenstein said giving law enforcement the tools it needs would be a priority.

Edwards also said the state could spend smarter by cutting down on its prison budget. The prison system should focus on violent offenders, not people with mental illness or drug addiction, he said. Both Edwards and Havenstein say they’d support decriminalizing marijuana.

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