On the Trail: Is it ‘divisive’ for Feltes and Volinsky to debate the issues?

  • Andru Volinsky

  • State Sen. Dan Feltes speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Sewalls Falls Bridge in Concord on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

For the Monitor 
Published: 7/24/2020 4:33:51 PM

New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky are in agreement as they heavily criticize Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

But it’s no surprise that the two gubernatorial candidates who are facing off in September’s primary disagree on which of them is the better candidate to take on Sununu in November’s general election.

The friction was on display this week as the candidates – who both call Concord home - answered questions in a virtual gubernatorial forum hosted by the Strafford County Democrats.

In his closing comments, Volinsky emphasized that he’s the candidate who can make a clearer contrast with Sununu – who’s running this year for a third two-year term steering New Hampshire.

“We’re all Democrats which means there’s more that unites us than divides us. But the differences are important. It’s not divisive to tell you what those policy and factual differences are,” Volinsky said.

Volinsky – who’s showcased his opposition to taking the decades-old pledge to veto a state sales or income tax – noted Feltes’ had taken the pledge and argued that “Chris Sununu beat two different pledge candidates in a row. There’s no reason to believe that a third pledge candidate will do any differently.”

And he highlighting the Granite Bridge – a fracked gas pipeline project from the Seacoast to Manchester along the Route 101 corridor that Volinsky opposes and Feltes conditionally supports.

“You can’t be a part-time climate champion. Either you oppose the Granite Bridge project fracked gas pipeline, $400 million in the wrong direction, or you don’t oppose it,” Volinsky said. “I’ve been steadfast from the outset in my opposition and that makes me clearly in contrast to Sununu.”

Feltes – who gave his closing comments after Volinsky – pushed back.

“Unfortunately a lot of the stuff you just heard from Andru is false,” he charged

The three-term legislator stressed that “what we’ve seen in that closing statement is Andru is running against me. I’m running against Sununu. That’s what we need to be focused on. And I’m focused like a laser beam on that.”

Feltes argued that Democrats should be attacking each other.

“We’ve got to unite the Democratic Party, not divide it. Note create issues to divide the Democratic party,” Feltes said. “Do we need that right now? I think the answer is no. I respectfully disagree with some of the characterizations tonight, but that’s OK.”

While Feltes and Volinsky have long clashed over the pledge and Granite Bridge, this week’s forum also shined a light on their differences on legalizing marijuana. While both support the move – they differ on what kind of regulations should accompany the legalization.

“I’ve voted for it in the past and I’ve said ‘yes’ with three conditions,” Feltes said. “Number one – robust child protection and regulation including but not limited to no gummies. Number two – significant amount of revenue from it going to the state and number three – making sure that a significant amount of revenue that does to go the state goes to addiction treatment services.”

“If those three eminently achievable conditions are met, then we can get it done,” he said.

When it was his turn to speak, Volinsky took a different tact.

“I would legalize the recreational adult use of marijuana without caveating it to death,” he said.

Volinsky added that “there are pretty obvious safeguards that need to be in place. We need to do it. We are the only New England state that doesn’t have legalized marijuana and we should.”

100 days and counting

Sunday marks 100 days until November’s general election – and both major political parties in New Hampshire are planning to use the marker to mobilize their supporters.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party, Organize NH, and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s presidential campaign are hosting a joint statewide weekend of action. The groups plan virtual events spanning all 10 counties in the state.

The state party says they’ll be releasing a Medium post detailing “100 Reasons to Vote for Democrats in November” and asking Granite Staters to share their own reasons. And they say former Gov. John Lynch will lead a team of surrogates who will hold virtual events to energize voters and encourage them to vote from home through absentee balloting.

The Republicans are also using the 100-day milestone to build support.

Trump Victory – which is the combined forces of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, the Republican National Committee, and the state Republican parties – is hosting a canvassing kickoff on Saturday in Manchester, an office opening in Derry, and a phone bank in Rochester.

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