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Governor's race: Stephen vs. Lynch

Last modified: 11/2/2010 12:00:00 AM
John Stephen and Gov. John Lynch rallied their supporters and made one last push for votes yesterday as New Hampshire residents prepared to decide which man will lead the state for the next two years.

Lynch, a Hopkinton Democrat and former businessman seeking a fourth term in office, and Stephen, a Manchester Republican and former state commissioner of health and human services, head into today's election after weeks of intense campaigning and several contentious debates that have highlighted their differences.

Libertarian John Babiarz of Grafton is also running for governor and appears on the ballot.

Lynch has held a modest lead over Stephen in opinion polls, including Public Policy Polling and Rasmussen Reports surveys conducted last week that showed the incumbent ahead by nine and six points, respectively. The polls had margins of error of 2.7 and 4 percentage points.

A poll released last night by the University of New Hampshire and WMUR showed Lynch with an eight-point lead, 49 percent to 41 percent for Stephen among likely voters. The survey, conducted Oct. 27-31, has a 3.3 percentage-point margin of error.

Lynch and Stephen both said yesterday they expect the election to be close.

Stephen spent part of the afternoon in downtown Rochester, waving to passing cars and trucks with nearly 30 supporters holding signs for him and other Republican candidates.

'We're doing a lot of get-out-the-vote, we're doing a lot of stand-outs and visibility . . . to get our message out of lower taxes, less spending and more economic prosperity creating jobs,' Stephen said.

Stephen said he was 'getting great vibes' and expects to win today. 'It's going to be a repudiation to the big-spending Concord environment we've seen in recent years,' he said.

Earlier in the day, in Concord, Lynch told nearly 100 supporters in the lobby of the Concord City Auditorium that New Hampshire's economy is relatively healthy under his leadership, and quality of life is high.

The choice between the candidates is clear, Lynch said.

'I've been a governor who's worked hard to keep an eye on the bottom line and still look out for people, and it's a choice between ongoing, steady leadership, as we still are in a very economically challenged situation, versus somebody who has shown he has poor judgment and can't manage finances very well,' Lynch told the crowd, which several times chanted, 'Two more years!'

Lynch appeared at the rally with his wife, Susan, as well as state Sen. Sylvia Larsen of Concord and Concord Mayor Jim Bouley, both Democrats. Former governor Walter Peterson, a Republican and Lynch supporter, also attended.

After defeating Republican incumbent Craig Benson in 2004, Lynch won his second and third terms in landslides, capturing 70 percent two years ago and 74 percent of the vote in 2006. He announced in April he would seek a fourth two-year term, which would make him the state's longest serving chief executive in nearly two centuries.

But Stephen, a two-time congressional candidate, has given Lynch a strong challenge in a year expected to favor Republicans across the country.

The men have clashed over taxes, spending and how they would balance the budget for the next biennium. They've also had sharp disagreements over legislation that reforms the state's parole system. Lynch, who signed the bill after it passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, says it will make people safer by reducing recidivism. Stephen has decried several provisions, including a mandate to release inmates, including sex offenders, on parole nine months before they reach their maximum sentences so they can be subject to intense supervision in the community.

Both men have had help from outside groups, some paying for attack ads, and national political celebrities. Former president Bill Clinton stumped for Lynch in Nashua on Sunday, while Stephen has campaigned with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in the last week.

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


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