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Hassan files for re-election, defends Turkey trip

Maggie Hassan; Wednesday, August 22, 2012. 

( Alexander Cohn/ Monitor staff)

Maggie Hassan; Wednesday, August 22, 2012. ( Alexander Cohn/ Monitor staff)

After officially filing for re-election yesterday, Gov. Maggie Hassan highlighted what she considers her first-term accomplishments, defended an upcoming trade trip to Turkey and said she will continue to push for casino gambling if elected again.

“It’s important to focus on how we can grow international trade and now, with direct flights from Boston to Istanbul, this is a really great opportunity for our 12th-largest trading partner,” she said of the Turkey trip, which begins next Friday. Republicans have sharply criticized the trip, which is moving forward despite a freeze on state employees’ out-of-state travel imposed by Hassan. The trip was paid for before the freeze, according to state information. The trip costs $15,000 in general fund money, with the remaining money coming from the businesses accompanying Hassan and the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey, which is paying the costs for Hassan and a member of the state police.

Hassan, serving her first term as governor, will run in the general election against either Walt Havenstein or Andrew Hemingway, who are both vying for the Republican nomination in the Sept. 9 primary. During brief remarks yesterday, Hassan spoke about her successful efforts to freeze in-state university tuition, expand Medicaid and fund infrastructure improvements. (She did not mention that those improvements will be funded by a 4.2-cent increase in the gas tax that will take effect July 1.)

Hassan’s Republican opponents have criticized her focus on legalizing casinos as a means of bringing in new revenue. Her proposed budget last year included $80 million in revenue from a casino that was not legalized. This year’s casino proposals received more support than previous proposals but still did not pass.

“I continue to think that it makes sense for us to fund our own priorities with a casino in New Hampshire rather than lose the revenue that New Hampshire citizens spend at a casino to other states,” she said yesterday.

Hassan also highlighted an improvement in New Hampshire’s unemployment rate, which is now at 4.4 percent, the lowest since the recession began in 2008. New Hampshire was also the fastest-growing state for exports in 2013. But, Hassan said, there is more work to be done to improve the economy, including making sure higher education is affordable and building strong workforce pipelines.

Shortly after Hassan’s filing, the Havenstein campaign sent out a release focused on new GDP numbers that show New Hampshire’s GDP grew by 0.9 percent in 2013, lower than the New England average of 1.3 percent. Havenstein has made his business background a central theme of his campaign and has criticized Hassan for not having an economic development plan.

“These (GDP) numbers are an indictment of Maggie Hassan’s failed leadership on the economy,” Havenstein said in a statement.

Dennis Delay, an economist with the nonpartisan New Hampshire Center for Public Policies, said New Hampshire’s growth has been slower than that of Massachusetts and Vermont for some time.

“I don’t think it’s due to any one political policy,” he said. “It’s really a more complicated answer than that.”

Hemingway, a young entrepreneur from Bristol, took a shot at Hassan’s Turkey trip while filing his paperwork yesterday. He said Hassan shouldn’t be spending taxpayer dollars on the trip and, if she did want to pursue trading opportunities, she should focus on other states or bigger trading partners such as Canada and Mexico.

“I don’t understand the determination and the fascination with Turkey,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense on paper, and as governor, I would say no, I won’t take ridiculous trips like this.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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