Editorial: Van Ostern is clear choice for governor

Sunday, October 30, 2016

New Hampshire is fortunate to have two capable young candidates for governor in Colin Van Ostern, 37, and Chris Sununu, 41. But when it comes to a vision for the future, many of Sununu’s ideas feel old. Van Ostern is the candidate with a fresh perspective and solid strategies to implement his initiatives, and that is why he has our endorsement for governor.

Van Ostern, of Concord, developed an interest in politics early in life, and it shows. He is polished and difficult to rattle, and like Hillary Clinton is capable of speaking thoughtfully and with deep understanding on seemingly every issue of concern to voters. His ability to absorb and process information has served him well during his two terms on the Executive Council, as well as in the private sector. As a marketing executive with Stonyfield Yogurt, he gained insight into what it takes to run a successful and cutting-edge business, and later applied those lessons as head of marketing for Southern New Hampshire University’s College of America, a national model for online learning.

Ask Van Ostern why he decided to run, and his answer feels canned and unsubstantial: He wants to keep New Hampshire moving forward. But when he discusses the policies he wants to implement, and backs up that vision with hard data, the slogan takes on depth.

Van Ostern understands what Medicaid expansion has meant to 50,000 previously uninsured state residents, and that’s why he wants to make it permanent. In Planned Parenthood, he doesn’t see a political football but rather a service that deserves state funding because it provides crucial health care options. He sees commuter rail and renewable energy as key ingredients to a brighter – and greener – future for New Hampshire, and believes the state should always look for opportunities to invest in its workforce.

Van Ostern would also like to see the state fund full-day kindergarten, which he would pay for by raising the cigarette tax by about 10 cents, reversing a cut made during the Bill O’Brien Legislature. On the opioid crisis, Van Ostern’s plan mirrors that of New Futures, which prioritizes investment in prevention, education, treatment and recovery. He opposes the death penalty and would like to see the state raise the minimum wage.

While Van Ostern is closely aligned with Gov. Maggie Hassan on many issues, he does not agree with her on everything, including Syrian refugees. He told the Monitor’s editorial board in August that rigorous individual security screening is the best way to keep the state safe, and that a litmus test for nationality or religion is “a security blanket that makes you feel better but actually doesn’t protect you better.” It’s a thoughtful – and we believe correct – position.

Sununu, an executive councilor and CEO of Waterville Valley, is bright, affable and animated, traits that would no doubt be of great value when building consensus in the State House. His desire to break up the two-headed beast that is the Department of Resources and Economic Development is right on target, and his plan to keep college students in the state by paying down their debt if they go into “high-risk jobs,” such as teaching and nursing, is promising. But there are too many issues on which we disagree with Sununu, and two of his positions are downright dangerous: his refusal to acknowledge the impact humans have on climate change and his continuous and bewildering support for Donald Trump.

Van Ostern is already a smart, steady and thoughtful leader, and that is why we believe he is the right choice to be New Hampshire’s next governor.