- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - They may be running for governor of New Hampshire, but Chris Sununu and Colin Van Ostern accused each other of embodying the worst of Washington during a debate Wednesday night.

During the one-hour debate broadcast on NH1 News, Sununu, a Republican, argued that his Democratic opponent would embrace one-size-fits-all Washington programs on everything from health care to education instead of upholding the state’s tradition of strong local control.

“He wants to defer to Washington, let them make all the decisions. This is New Hampshire. This is the ‘Live Free or Die’ state,” Sununu said. “Local control matters.”

Van Ostern shot back that it was Sununu who was following the “Washington way” of speaking out of both sides of his mouth - claiming to want to keep the best parts of the expanded Medicaid system under the Affordable Care Act while actually working against it.

“When Republicans and Democrats were working together to find a bipartisan solution to expand Medicaid, bringing health care coverage to 50,000 people without raising state taxes … he did everything he could to stop it,” Van Ostern said.

The two men currently serve on the governor’s Executive Council, which approves state contracts. Sununu voted against a key contract related to expanding Medicaid but insisted he did so only because councilors weren’t given time to read it.

“I’m never going to sign a piece of legislation, I’m never going to approve a contract unless we get to read it first,” he said. “That’s the Washington way of doing it, that’s Colin’s way of doing it.”

The specter of Washington also came up when the candidates were asked about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Sununu said Trump’s comments in a 2005 recording about fame allowing him to force himself on women were disgusting, but he supports his party’s nominee because he is focused on what’s best for the country in the next four years. Van Ostern countered that Sununu’s position makes him unfit to be governor.

“This is simple. Chris Sununu has failed a leadership test every single day that he continues to support Donald Trump,” he said.

But Van Ostern also had to answer a question about his support for past presidential hopeful John Edwards, whose political career ended in scandal after he had an affair while his wife was being treated for cancer. Van Ostern worked for Edwards during his 2004 campaign.

“How do you explain to the people of New Hampshire -frankly how do you explain to the women of New Hampshire - being the spokesperson for the likes of someone like John Edwards?” Sununu said. “These are things that are in our backgrounds, and they need to be discussed in an open, honest and transparent way.”

Van Ostern said he tells women that he’s the only candidate who voted in favor of funding for Planned Parenthood, while Sununu’s vote against the funding cut off important health screenings and lengthened appointment wait times for women.

“I think what voters care about is what’s going in their lives and what we’re going to do,” he said.

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