Democratic gubernatorial candidates Kelly, Marchand trade jabs as primary nears

For the Monitor
Published: 8/4/2018 10:53:07 PM

Moments into their most recent
face off at a forum in Exeter on Wednesday, Molly Kelly questioned the progressive credentials of Steve Marchand, her rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

“Being bold and being progressive is not new to me. I have been fighting for these issues every single day of my life,” the former state senator from Harrisville said, using the line for the second time in as many days.

With just over five weeks to go until the Sept. 11 primary, the race between Kelly and Marchand is picking up
steam. And new tensions between the two candidates vying to take on Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in November’s general election were on display during forums in Exeter and Nashua this past week.

Marchand, a former Portsmouth mayor who jumped into the race for the corner office 16 months ago, is running as an unapologetic liberal as he introduces one policy proposal after another.

“We are not going to get where we want to go by persuading Republican and moderate voters and swing voters,” he said Monday in Nashua when asked how to increase bipartisanship at the State House.

“We’ve got to make the argument,” he continued. “We’ve got to do it forcefully. We’ve got to do it thoughtfully. We’ve got to have vision and we’ve got to have confidence. We’ve got to have courage. And if we do that, we get to replace them.”

Marchand also ran to the left in April 2016 when he launched his first bid for governor – just two months after Sen. Bernie Sanders ignited New Hampshire progressives with his win over Hillary Clinton in the state’s Democratic presidential primary. Legalizing marijuana was one of his signature issues during the campaign. Despite getting in late and a lackluster fundraising effort, Marchand finished a surprise – but distant – second to then-Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern in the Democratic primary.

But just a couple of years earlier, Marchand was the state director for the centrist No Labels organization. And a decade before that, he was a regional director for the Concord Coalition – a well-known national group that rails against deficit spending and advocates for a balanced budget.

Kelly, who often highlights her progressive record during her 10 years in the state Senate representing the southwest corner of New Hampshire, took aim at Marchand.

“My experience has been my lifetime of issues that I have continued to work for, not something I decided to do because I was going to run for governor,” she said.

Kelly has repeatedly touted her years in the legislature since launching her campaign in April – a year after Marchand jumped into the race.

“I will continue to talk about my record because I’m proud of my record,” she said Wednesday in Exeter.

Minutes later, emphasizing her credentials on the issue of education, she said “education has been my priority. When I was in the Senate, it was my priority. It will be as governor.”

But Marchand pointed toward his years as a city councilor and mayor in Portsmouth.

“I was definitely willing to lead from the front as a local elected official,” he said. “Again, most of this even before Molly was in the state Senate.”

Both candidates have criticized Sununu for his recent vetoes of two bills that would have aided the renewable energy industry. Kelly’s held a handful of events across the state over the past two months spotlighting her commitment to the issue. Marchand kicked off the week by unveiling a five-point plan that included the goal of 50 percent renewable energy in the state by 2030.

On college affordability, both candidates criticized Sununu, but disagreed on how to lower costs. Kelly advocated a tuition freeze, while Marchand highlighted his “debt free plan for college” and took a shot at Kelly, saying that “it is not enough for us to freeze tuition.”

Some of the most heated disagreements between the primary rivals focused on campaign finance reform and corporate contributions.

“I am the only candidate certainly in this race, and I suspect in a generation, who believes the only way you’re going to get campaign finance reform is through public funding of elections,” Marchand said.

And he claimed that when he released his plan, “Molly and her campaign, she criticized me harder than Chris Sununu.”

Kelly has knocked Marchand for accepting, and then not immediately returning, corporate campaign contributions.

“I’m the only one in this campaign to have made a commitment and stuck with the commitment not to have taken one dollar from corporations in my campaign,” she said.

Marchand countered that Kelly’s record isn’t so clean.

“I’m the only candidate who’s never taken a dime from PSNH or Eversource,” he said. “Molly’s taken thousands of dollars from them.”

The Kelly campaign disputed Marchand’s claim that he’s never accepted contributions from fossil fuel corporations.

“When I was in the Senate, I received a check from PSNH, and let me tell you what happened,” she said. “I put through a group net metering bill that they fought every single day. (The PSNH contribution) made absolutely no difference to me.”

While both candidates criticized Sununu for taking tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from Eversource, Marchand said that in a 2013 state Senate vote, “I believe Molly voted the wrong way on Northern Pass.”

Kelly fired back.

“I have never, never supported Northern Pass,” she said. “Let’s just make that clear.”

The two also didn’t see eye to eye on the proposed Granite Bridge natural gas pipeline from the Seacoast to Manchester along Route 101.

Marchand vowed to oppose the project.

Kelly, on the other hand, stopped short of ruling out the proposal.

“I am talking to everyone about the bridge project because it is an important project,” she said. “I will not support a project that does not lower our carbon footprint and I will not support a project that is not safe for our communities.”

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