- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A question about energy sparked one of the most energetic exchanges during a debate between New Hampshire’s candidates for governor on Tuesday.

Republican Chris Sununu and Democrat Colin Van Ostern faced each other for a one-hour televised debate hosted by WMUR-TV and the Union Leader newspaper. When the topic turned to renewable energy, Sununu defended his votes against solar and wind projects, saying he carefully evaluated each project’s merits. Both men serve on the governor’s Executive Council, which approves state contracts and nominations to appointed positions.

“Unlike Colin, who’s a rubber stamp for every project that comes before him, I see the value in using judgment, discernment, my knowledge base and knowing what projects fit our needs,” Sununu said.

Sununu denied being influenced by campaign donations from executives at Eversource Energy, leader of the Northern Pass project to run a 192-mile transmission line through New Hampshire to carry HydroQuebec power to southern New England markets, saying the company has no contracts before the council. But Van Ostern noted that of the seven candidates who ran for governor this year, all but Sununu had at least some reservations about the project.

“The discernment that he says he shows when it comes to solar and renewable energy projects just doesn’t exist when it comes to something that’s being funded by huge, multibillion dollar corporations through our state,” Van Ostern said. “We need a governor who’s going to stand up for the people. The reason Chris said he voted against solar projects was ‘because they penalize the electric utility companies.’ I’m worried about doing what’s right for New Hampshire consumers.”

Van Ostern also was asked about campaign donations, in his case, from employees at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock health system. He said voters can judge him based on his record, then quickly returned to criticizing Sununu.

Both Van Ostern and Sununu voted for a contract paying Dartmouth-Hitchcock $36.5 million for psychiatric services at the state hospital, but Sununu and other Republicans are calling for a re-bid based on emails they argue show the process unfairly favored Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

“It’s complete mismanagement on the part of Gov. (Maggie) Hassan and of Colin Van Ostern,” Sununu said. “The red flags are all over the place. Colin knows the red flags are there, he knows the lack of action he’s taken, he knows the mismanagement, and that’s why he completely avoided the question.”

Earlier Tuesday, Van Ostern criticized Sununu for contradicting himself on the integrity of New Hampshire’s election system.

Last month, Sununu said the state has a long tradition of fair and honest elections. But in a radio interview with the Howie Carr show Monday, he said he has no doubt voter fraud exists, that Democrats have “gamed the system” since enacting same-day voter registration and that they bring in busloads of people from Massachusetts to vote in New Hampshire.

Democrats pointed out that the same-day voter registration law was passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature, and Van Ostern said New Hampshire “does democracy better than anywhere else in the country.”

“The people of New Hampshire deserve a governor who champions our state and our free and fair elections, not one who tears New Hampshire down simply to push Donald Trump’s partisan conspiracy theories,” he said, referring to the Republican presidential nominee’s recent comments about rigged elections.

Van Ostern and Sununu are competing to replace Hassan, a Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate against first-term Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte.


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