Three gubernatorial candidates gather for forum

Cinde Warmington, Kelly Ayotte, and Chuck Morse at the NFIB Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Thursday.

Cinde Warmington, Kelly Ayotte, and Chuck Morse at the NFIB Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Thursday. Sofie Buckminster

Cinde Warmington, Kelly Ayotte, and Chuck Morse at the NFIB Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Thursday.

Cinde Warmington, Kelly Ayotte, and Chuck Morse at the NFIB Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Thursday. Sofie Buckminster

Cinde Warmington, Kelly Ayotte, and Chuck Morse at the NFIB Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Thursday.

Cinde Warmington, Kelly Ayotte, and Chuck Morse at the NFIB Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Thursday. Sofie Buckminster—Staff

Cinde Warmington, Kelly Ayotte, and Chuck Morse at the NFIB Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Thursday.

Cinde Warmington, Kelly Ayotte, and Chuck Morse at the NFIB Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Thursday. Sofie Buckminster—Staff

Cinde Warmington, Kelly Ayotte, and Chuck Morse at the NFIB Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Thursday.

Cinde Warmington, Kelly Ayotte, and Chuck Morse at the NFIB Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Thursday. Sofie Buckminster—Staff

By SOFIE BUCKMINSTER

Monitor staff

Published: 06-20-2024 4:32 PM

Modified: 06-20-2024 10:08 PM


The candidates vying to replace Chris Sununu in the governor’s seat don’t agree on much. Democrat Cinde Warmington thinks that renewable energy is the future, while Republican Chuck Morse thinks that it puts a chokehold on New Hampshire’s freedom. Morse and former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte said they wouldn’t spend tax dollars on electric vehicle chargers, while Warmington said it should be a priority.

But, they found common ground on Thursday morning, agreeing that the current permitting processes for new businesses in the state are terrible. And they all concurred that former Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig – the only no-show among the top candidates – should have been there.

Warmington, Ayotte, and Morse all had the opportunity to impress small business owners as the National Federation of Independent Business’ hosted their third Gubernatorial Candidate Forum in Concord Thursday morning. The politicians have yet to face each other in head-to-head debates, opting for forums like these instead.

Moderator Bruce Berke asked nine questions attempting to pin down each candidate’s stance on taxes, clean energy, and other workforce issues. 

Here’s a rundown of what they said.

Are you in favor of state income tax or sales tax?

All three candidates said they were opposed both.

Do you foresee the need to seek new revenue sources for the tight budget, and do you think that donors should be the future of education funding?

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Warmington: This is a pressing issue that the state needs to figure it out.

Ayotte: The state needs to live within its means. She pledged to reorganize the state budget to direct money to where it needs to be, and leverage technology to cut costs.

Morse: Taxes or fees shouldn’t be increased to feed the state budget. He opposes relying on donors to fund education, which is an issue that needs to be fixed within the legislature.

The process of starting and expanding businesses is made difficult by the process of seeking approval from multiple agencies. Sununu has addressed this by pursuing technology as a solution (one-stop online permitting processes, a business services portal). Would your administration endorse this effort?

Warmington: The state needs to strike the right balance by continuing to pursue technological solutions, but also ensuring that agencies are adequately staffed to help business owners.

Ayotte: Business owners need to know exactly how long permitting takes and the state needs to give people an accurate estimate of how long they will need to wait.

Morse: State agencies need to work together to streamline and improve the process.

Energy supply and costs have been a burden to businesses in the state. What are your initiatives to ensure supply without raising costs?

Warmington: The state needs to diversify its energy sources to lessen its reliance on fossil fuels. Increased clean energy, will create more jobs in the state. If the state delays, others will take the lead.

Ayotte: She supports the “All of the Above’” energy policy, which calls for increased production of both fossil fuels and renewable energy. The state’s energy policy should seek to protect the environment and embrace new technologies.

Morse: Energy should be diversified, including increased drilling for oil in the United States, which is a key position of Donald Trump. The state should have every option for energy sources. 

Do you support public/private agreements or purchase power agreements to maintain reliable sources of energy?

All three candidates supported public/private partnerships to address energy concerns.

The 2019 proposed Transportation Climate Initiative would have raised gas prices, but Governor Sununu vetoed it. Now, there’s a new and similar proposal. Would you support it?

Warmington: I would need to learn more before making a decision.

Ayotte: No.

Morse: No.

There may be efforts forming to ban natural gas as an energy source. Would you support that?

Warmington: No, but I would consider reducing natural gas to transition towards replacing it over time.

Ayotte: No. 

Morse: No.

People in the tourism industry are concerned that New Hampshire’s lack of electric vehicle charging stations is reducing tourism in the state. Would your administration address this issue?

Warmington: Yes. 

Ayotte: No.

Morse: No.

What steps would you take to address the labor shortage in New Hampshire?

Warmington: Housing is too expensive – especially construction costs. Childcare needs to be more affordable to allow parents to go back to work.

Ayotte: The state needs more housing for workers, as well as lower taxes and more affordable childcare. 

Morse: New Hampshire is trying to solve the issue, but policies out of Washington are holding the state back.

The primary election is scheduled for September 10, when voters will choose either Ayotte or Morse and Warmington or Craig as their Republican and Democratic candidates. The general election will be on November 5.

Sofie Buckminster can be reached at sbuckminster@cmonitor.com.