CONCORD (AP) — Former state Senate Majority Leader Maggie Hassan will keep New Hampshire governor's seat in Democratic control after she beat Republican Ovide Lamontagne, an opponent she said was too extreme for the state.
With her win, Hassan is in line to succeed John Lynch, the governor since 2005 who served four two-year terms and is retiring.
Hassan's campaign stressed the need to repair damage done by the Republican Legislature in its last budget, particularly by restoring deep cuts to public colleges and the state's hospitals. She said the way to grow the economy is to invest in education so business has the workforce it needs.
Lamontagne had claimed Hassan was a tax-and-spend liberal who would grow government.
Both Hassan, 54, of Exeter, and Lamontagne, 55, of Manchester, are business attorneys and campaigned on the need to grow the economy and jobs.
Hassan argued education was the key and said she would reverse the $50 million in annual cuts the Legislature made to the University System of New Hampshire in the last budget. She would help pay for the aid by raising the cigarette tax and hiring auditors to ensure businesses pay their taxes.
She also would double the state's business research and development tax credit.
Lamontagne proposed cutting the state's tax on business profits from 8.5 percent to 8 percent over two years by finding spending to cut to offset the loss of an estimated $27 million in revenue. He also proposed new tax credits to help business and promised to ease regulations.
Lamontagne proudly touted his conservatism and embraced support from New Hampshire's loosely organized tea party as matching his views of limited government and low taxes. He took New Hampshire's traditional pledge to veto a personal income or general sales tax. The state has neither.
Lamontagne argued Hassan would support an income or sales tax — despite her pledge to also veto them. He promised not to raise taxes a single dime.
Hassan criticized Lamontagne for promising to spend more money on services for the disabled and hospital aid without saying where he would make cuts to pay for the spending.
Lamontagne, a Catholic, strongly opposes abortion and gay marriage, though he did not emphasize his support for imposing limits on abortion or repealing New Hampshire's same-sex marriage law in his campaign. He supports replacing gay marriage with civil unions for heterosexual and same-sex couples but doesn't support invalidating existing same-sex marriages. He also supports exempting religious organizations from contraceptive mandates in insurance coverage.
Hassan highlighted her support for the rights of workers to unionize, for women to have access to abortions and birth control and for gays to marry. Hassan was instrumental in the Senate passing the state's law legalizing same-sex unions in 2009. An effort to repeal it fell short this year.
Both supported a limited expansion of gambling. He would allow one high-end casino at Rockingham Park, a horse track in Salem, while she would consider one or two casinos based on a bidding process.
The race was Hassan's first try for governor and Lamontagne's second bid. He lost to Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, now a U.S. senator, in 1996. He also ran unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in 1992 and U.S. Senate in 2010.
Hassan lost her first bid for state Senate in 2002, but won the seat in the following election. She was defeated during a Republican sweep in 2010.