- Associated Press - Thursday, November 5, 2015

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - Businessman Mark Connolly launched his bid for governor Thursday, stressing education, innovation and jobs creation as he kicked off a contested primary in the race to succeed Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Connolly announced his candidacy in Manchester - entering a Democratic field that includes Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern - and said he will carry on the work of the state’s last two Democratic governors: Hassan and John Lynch.

“We’re facing critical decisions about our state’s future, and we need a pragmatic, progressive and independent leader to help build on the progress achieved by Governors Lynch and Hassan,” Connolly said.

Connolly quit his job leading the Bureau of Securities Regulation in 2009 over what he called the state’s failure to investigate an alleged Ponzi scheme by Financial Resources Mortgage. He’s also a former deputy secretary of state and state representative, and he runs an investment advising company in New Castle.

Connolly said his priorities would be working with all parties to provide “world-class” education, grow a culture of innovation for 21st century businesses and create the kind of jobs that pay enough to keep the next generation in New Hampshire.

“Throughout constant transformations and reinventions, we’ve never lost hold of the fundamental values that we hold dear in the Granite State - freedom, liberty and the promise that, if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll be given the opportunity to succeed,” he said in a prepared statement.

Hassan’s U.S. Senate run has created a competitive environment in the gubernatorial race. Republican Executive Councilor Chris Sununu is running and several others are likely to jump in from both parties.

Before Connolly’s announcement, state Republicans pounced on the entire Democratic field - including one person who hasn’t officially joined the race.

“It’s clear that Democrats are desperately seeking alternatives to run against career politician Colin Van Ostern and one term Portsmouth City Councilor Stefany Shaheen,” said GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Horn.

Shaheen, daughter of U.S. Sen. and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, hasn’t said if she’ll run.

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