On Wednesday, October 26th, NH1 hosted a debate between Executive Councilor Chris Sununu and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, who are both running for the governorship, Sununu the Republican and Van Ostern the Democrat.
During the primary, they both faced very different circumstances. Both went in being the presumptive nominee, but Van Ostern had a fairly easy campaign, winning a 3 person primary with an outright majority. Sununu, on the other hand, had a nail biter of a campaign, winning his primary by less than 1,000 votes. Representative Frank Edelblut of Wilton almost won the primary against Sununu, but lost by a small margin and conceded the day after the primary.
In terms of background, both of them have a primary background in business with politics being present. Chris Sununu is the son of Governor John H. Sununu and the brother of Senator John E. Sununu, and has been an executive councilor who has been controversial due to his contradictory votes on Planned Parenthood, voting down a contract with them and later voting for a contract with retroactive payments this summer. Colin Van Ostern was a business manager for Stonyfield Yogurt, but has a much more interesting background in politics. Van Ostern moved to New Hampshire in 2001, and has worked in politics since moving here. He founded Washington Street Consulting, and was a senior advisor for Jeanne Shaheen and Anne Kuster.
During the debate, Chris Sununu appeared to be very aggravated. Despite polling showing him on top, Sununu was defensive and looked like he was fighting an uphill battle. Colin Van Ostern, in a very contrasting way, managed to seem calm and collected, and tried to stay on message and focus on what he would do as governor. Chris Sununu spoke very quickly, and went after Van Ostern on his background in politics and being a political operative. Sununu kept being tripped up while speaking, and overall came off badly.
The debate included a discussion about Donald Trump and his comments that were made public recently. Sununu said that his comments were despicable and indefensible, but said he would vote for him. Sununu also said that Trump does not define the party, with Colin Van Ostern saying that the state of the Party allowed him to define it.
In terms of the opioid crisis, Sununu seemed to focus more on the dealer side, saying that we need to make sure dealers who are facing 7-15 years in prison get 7-15, instead of the 2-4 they can get with a plea deal. Van Ostern, on the other hand, focused more on recovery, and making sure we do more to help people who are addicts or were addicts, with programs such as peer counseling and recovery programs. Van Ostern played to people’s emotions by recounting a story of a meeting he had with a waitress in Cheshire County who counseled women at the jail on the weekends about what a life without heroin is like.
Chris Sununu both attacked and praised expanded medicaid in the state, within the same question. He said that Van Ostern supporting expanded medicaid was making Obamacare permanent, which is bad, but then said if we need to take steps to keep it permanent, we should. Van Ostern was much more of an ardent defender of it, with Sununu being wishy washy on it and not directly answering and jumping around to many different topics during the actual question.
On the topic of paid family medical leave, the debate went to minimum wage quickly. On the former, both said they supported it, but on the latter their views heavily differed. Sununu said that we should just defer to the federal minimum wage, and that raising it would hurt employers in the state, citing his own business. Van Ostern said he supports raising the minimum wage in the state to an amount between where it is now and $12/hour. When asked by Chris Sununu if he supported Clinton’s proposed $15/hour, he smirked and the moderators went to commercial debates.
In terms of education, Sununu said we need standardized testing, but we should move away from Smarter Balance and students shouldn’t spend as long practicing for the tests. Van Ostern said that he wants us to move towards project-based learning and assessments, instead of standardized testing. He also praised using the SAT as the standardized test for 11th graders. Sticking with education, both said they would fully fund public kindergarten statewide and do not think that sex education is a role of the state government to decide when it starts, but is a local decision.
We are less than 2 weeks away from the general election. With all of the focus being on the Presidential and Senate races, the Congressional and Gubernatorial races are going under the radar. I believe that the Gubernatorial race is one of the most important ones you can vote in, and that you should go and research the candidates, their backgrounds, and where they stand, especially in a race as close as this one appears to be. For more information of Chris Sununu, you can go to http://chrissununu.com and for Colin Van Ostern you can go to http://vanostern.com.