Editorial: In governor’s race, a chance for serious talk
New Hampshire doesn’t yet know much about Walter Havenstein, the second Republican candidate planning to run for governor this year. But his very entry into the race is encouraging for voters eager for a serious conversation about the state’s future.
Compared to races for federal offices, gubernatorial elections in New Hampshire have considerably more potential to generate an interesting and substantive discussion. The candidates are generally less scripted, their talking points less dictated by party, their solutions less generic. The prize for the winners is a chance to actually accomplish important things for the state – a goal that no doubt feels more remote from Washington.
And at least at this moment in New Hampshire history, so many of the important questions facing the state do not fall into easy Republican-versus-Democratic thinking. Among them:
Is the Northern Pass hydroelectricity project a good idea? What about the New England governors’ efforts to increase natural gas capacity in the region? Should PSNH sell off its power plants, including the coal-fired plant in Bow? What’s the fairest way to assess applications for wind farms and other new energy projects?
New Hampshire has finally committed to constructing a new women’s prison, but the state still struggles with unacceptably high recidivism among inmates. Their repeated criminal activity is dangerous for the community; their repeated returns to prison is costly for taxpayers. What should be done – and how big a priority will the next governor make it?
Would a new casino be an overall benefit or detriment to the state? What about two? How much weight should a governor give to popular opinion on this issue?
Should New Hampshire repeal the death penalty? Is its presence on the books useful as a deterrent to crime? If it’s repealed, would the next governor be inclined to commute the sentence of the state’s lone death-row inmate, Michael Addison? Would he or she be comfortable signing Addison’s death warrant?
New Hampshire imposed a moratorium on helping school districts pay for new building construction a few years back, and its annual per-pupil “adequacy” contribution to school districts has been frozen for many years. Is the state doing enough to help schoolchildren and property taxpayers? If not, where should the money come from to do better?
Even after a one-year tuition freeze, the cost of attending New Hampshire’s public colleges and universities remains unusually high, as does the level of debt most students graduate with. How big a priority will this be for the new governor? What strategies does she or he have to increase the number of in-state students applying to and attending New Hampshire schools in the face of declining student populations in the state and across the Northeast?
There seems to be a growing consensus in the state that something, finally, must be done about the poor condition of the state’s roads and bridges. But, as always, the real question is financial. Where will the money come from to complete the widening of Interstate 93 and to knock some big repair projects off the state’s growing to-do list?
Republicans do not walk in lock step on any of these big issues, and neither do Democrats. Compared to the candidates for the U.S. House and Senate, those running or governor will be challenged to focus less on ideology and partisan politics and more on the real issues that will affect people’s lives. That’s what makes the 2014 governor’s race so interesting – and so important.