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Rhetoric heats up at Democratic governor candidates’ forum with Kelly, Marchand

  • Gubernatorial candidate Molly Kelly meets with the “Monitor” editorial board on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor file

  • Democratic candidate for governor of New Hampshire, Steve Marchand. August 2, 2016. Monitor file



For the Monitor
Monday, August 13, 2018

Molly Kelly and Steve Marchand took aim at each other as well as targeting Republican Gov. Chris Sununu as they shared the same stage for a Democratic gubernatorial forum at Dartmouth College.

Picking up where they left off at their last showdown nearly two weeks ago in Exeter, the two candidates hoping to face off with Sununu in November’s general election clashed repeatedly over energy policy.

Kelly and Marchand also traded fire over fossil fuel industry contributions during the forum, which was hosted by the Nelson Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and held in a packed Alumni Hall at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

“I am the only candidate running for governor who’s not accepted in this governor’s race one dollar from corporations or from executives from fossil fuel,” touted Kelly, a former state senator from Harrisville who represented the southwest corner of New Hampshire for a decade before deciding against running for re-election in 2016.

Marchand, a former Portsmouth mayor who’s making his second straight run for governor, countered that he’s “the only candidate who’s never taken a dime from Eversource or what used to be PSNH.”

PSNH is the acronym for Public Service of New Hampshire, the state’s largest energy utility that in 2015 became known as Eversource Energy.

The Kelly campaign disputed Marchand’s claim that he never accepted contributions from the fossil fuel industry, pointing to what they said were more than $6,000 in contributions from fossil fuel corporations and executives, including Constellation Energy and the New England Power Generators Association.

And Kelly, pushing back against Marchand’s charge that she took contributions from PSNH earlier this decade, argued that the money didn’t influence her votes on energy bills.

“Let me tell you how I stood up to PSNH,” she recounted. “They were not happy with me. I passed the first net-metering bill that has propelled solar and hydro in the state. You asked would you stand up to them. I did.”

Kelly highlighted that bill multiple times during the forum, but Marchand questioned the effectiveness of the measure, saying New Hampshire is only “half of 1 percent-renewable five years after Molly’s bill.”

While both candidates criticized Sununu for his vetoes this summer of two measures that would have aided the renewable energy industry, they clashed over the proposed Northern Pass hydroelectric power lines that would run the length of the state from Canada to Massachusetts. The project, supported by Sununu and Eversource, was dealt a severe regulatory setback this year.

“You voted the wrong way on Northern Pass,” Marchand claimed.

Kelly shot back “I have never supported Northern Pass. Never.”

Following the forum, Marchand explained that he was referring to Kelly’s vote in 2011 against House Bill 648, a bill that would have limited the state’s ability to take land for the Northern Pass project. But the Kelly campaign said that the senator voted with the majority to limit what opponents of the project described as a land grab.

The two candidates also disagreed over Granite Bridge, the proposed natural gas pipeline from the Seacoast to Manchester along Route 101.

In explaining why she hasn’t taken a stance yet on the project, Kelly said “we need to look at all of the pieces before we make a final decision on a particular project, and we don’t have all of the information yet.”

But she added that she won’t “support a project that does not lower our carbon footprint.”

Marchand quickly responded that “I do have enough information to have an opinion on it. I oppose the Granite Bridge project.”

Marchand and Kelly also didn’t see eye to eye on how to increase bipartisan cooperation at the State House.

In promoting a forceful agenda, Marchand argued that “the way to get progressive solutions is not by persuading Sununu and (President Donald) Trump.”

Instead, he argued “it comes by replacing them.”

While agreeing that “we need to defeat and unseat Chris Sununu,” Kelly offered that “we need to be able to listen to each other” but “never, never compromise our values.”

Late in the forum, which was held four weeks and one day before the Sept. 11 primary, Kelly highlighted that “I am very proud of many of the endorsements that I have received.”

She then listed her many high-profile endorsements from U.S. Sens. Jeanne and Maggie Hassan, 2nd Congressional District Rep. Annie Kuster, Planned Parenthood, the Teamsters, and two of the top teachers’ unions in New Hampshire.

Marchand made a point of refraining from name-dropping.

“We worry a lot less about who and we worry a lot more about how many,” he said.

He then touted that he’s “done almost 300 meet-and-greet events and thousands of conversations and over 30,000 people have committed to supporting us” as he claimed that his campaign’s “the most grass-roots effort in the history of gubernatorial politics in this state.”

The two candidates also discussed efforts to battle the state’s opioid epidemic, gun reform legislation, taxes and women’s reproductive rights during the forum.