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Joe Foster, ex-Senate majority leader from Nashua, is Hassan’s pick for attorney general

Joseph Foster

Joseph Foster

Joe Foster, a bankruptcy lawyer and former state Senate majority leader from Nashua, is Gov. Maggie Hassan’s pick for attorney general.

Foster, a Democrat, will be formally nominated for a four-year term at tomorrow’s Executive Council meeting. If confirmed, he would succeed Mike Delaney, who has led the state Department of Justice since 2009.

“Throughout his career as an attorney and public servant, Joe Foster has stood up and defended the cause of justice at every opportunity.
. . . His extensive legal experience will be invaluable in addressing the complex civil litigation facing the state, and in our ongoing efforts to improve protections for consumers,” said Hassan, a Democrat, in a statement yesterday.

Foster, 53, served in the House from 1995 to 1998 and in the Senate from 2002 to 2008. He chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and was majority leader for two years after the Democrats won control of the Legislature in 2006.

After Foster retired from the Senate in 2008, Hassan replaced him as majority leader.

Foster currently heads the bankruptcy group at the law firm of McLane, Graf, Raulerson and Middleton in Manchester.

He’s also a registered lobbyist for the Private Provider Network, a group of agencies that provide services to people with developmental and acquired disabilities. Last year, he registered as a lobbyist for the Manchester Water Works, Coe-Brown Northwood Academy and Pinkerton Academy.

“I am profoundly honored by the trust Gov. Hassan has placed in me to lead the New Hampshire Department of Justice as attorney general,” Foster said in a statement. “If I am confirmed, I will work hard every day to protect public safety and ensure justice for all of our citizens.”

Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg wrote in an email that “a number of highly qualified individuals” were considered for the job, but didn’t disclose any names or details. Delaney’s term ended Sunday, but he’s said he will remain in office during the transition.

Gambling record

Hassan and Delaney disagreed on the issue of expanded gambling – Hassan has endorsed legislation that would allow a single casino in the state, while Delaney’s office testified against it. The bill passed the Senate and is awaiting attention by the House.

Foster, who didn’t return a message yesterday seeking an interview, hasn’t been known as an advocate for expanded gambling.

In 2005, he was one of 18 senators who voted against a proposal to allow thousands of video slot machines at racetracks and in the North Country. In general, as a legislator he was considered “leery of electronic gambling and casinos,” said Jim Rubens, chairman of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling.

Later, Foster was vice chairman of a state commission that studied expanded gambling. The panel’s 2010 report, among other things, concluded that the state should put regulations in place before allowing a casino.

Goldberg wrote that the casino question “did not come up as part of discussions as his stance on gambling is not central to his ability as attorney general to enforce our laws and defend the justice of the people of New Hampshire.”

Rubens said his group hopes Foster “will carry on (the) nearly four-decade-long tradition, bipartisan tradition, that the attorney general’s office opposes casino gambling on public safety grounds.”

Warm reception

Foster got a warm reception yesterday from several members of the Executive Council, which must confirm his nomination. Three Democrats and two Republicans sit on the council.

“I think really highly of Joe,” said Councilor Colin Van Ostern, a Concord Democrat. “I think he was a good state senator. He’s a great lawyer. I look forward to sitting down with him and talking to him about his positions. . . . I think it’s a good step forward for the governor.”

Councilor Chris Pappas, a Manchester Democrat, called Foster “an outstanding nomination. I think the governor made a great choice.”

Pappas said he wants to speak with Foster and listen to public testimony before making a final decision, but said, “I look forward to supporting him, should everything go according to plan.”

Councilor Debora Pignatelli, a Nashua Democrat, called Foster “a good pick. We’ll know a lot more after we have a fair and a good public hearing. He certainly has some perspective that some of our other attorneys general haven’t had, which is he’s been a state representative and a state senator . . . and so he sees the practical effect of passing laws and what they do.”

Councilor Chris Sununu, a Newfields Republican, was more cautious.

“I know him. He has a pretty substantial resume as a lawyer in a lot of different areas, which is good. . . . I’m looking forward to sitting down with him and asking some tough questions and seeing if he’s the right guy for the state of New Hampshire,” Sununu said.

Councilor Ray Burton, a Bath Republican, also reserved judgement yesterday. “The governor has done her job and done it well – now the Executive Council will do its job and we’ll (do) it well as well!” Burton wrote in an email.

Additional praise came in statements yesterday from Foster’s former Senate colleagues.

Senate President Peter Bragdon noted they served together for four years and called Foster “a dedicated and respected legislator.” The Milford Republican said if Foster is confirmed, “he will no doubt bring those same talents with him to the Justice Department, along with a solid legal background.”

Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen, a Concord Democrat, called Foster “widely respected by both Republicans and Democrats” and said he “will serve the state with honor and integrity as New Hampshire’s chief legal and law enforcement officer.”

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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