DERRY — Restrictive regulations and soaring business taxes are stifling economic development in New Hampshire and forcing its young people to find jobs elsewhere.
That was the consensus Thursday of many candidates running for elected office. They presented their platforms during a breakfast and 90-minute public forum at Pinkerton Academy.
Sixteen candidates for the Granite State’s highest public offices — including governor and Congress — told the audience of about 50 people that more must be done to restore “The New Hampshire Advantage” and move the state forward.
The candidates said they are the ones to help accomplish that task.
They include Walt Havenstein, who wants to unseat first-term Gov. Maggie Hassan.
But he must first beat out three other Republican opponents in the primary Sept. 9 before facing off against the Democratic winner, expected to be Hassan, in the election Nov. 4.
“The fact is, today under Maggie Hassan, we have a walking dead economy,” Havenstein said.
He said New Hampshire has dropped from 14th to 35th in the country in terms of new business start-ups. People and jobs that should remain here are going elsewhere, Havenstein said.
“The young people are leaving our state,” he said. “We have to turn that around.”
Havenstein called for a rollback of “onerous regulations” he said are stalling business expansion.
He wasn’t the only one making that claim.
Revamping the regulatory and tax structures to boost the sagging state’s economy was a central theme among the 16 candidates, especially the 12 Republicans.
“Over the last six years, our economy continues to sputter,” 1st District congressional candidate Frank Guinta said. “I want to see economic growth here in the state of New Hampshire.”
In addition to the races for governor and Congress, there were candidates for U.S. Senate, Executive Council Districts 3 and 4, and state Senate Districts 14 and 19.
The candidates were each given five minutes to introduce themselves and outline their platforms.
Other common themes at the forum were the need to rein in spending, reduce property taxes, improve infrastructure and raise revenue through expanded gaming.
“I support casinos, but I will not gamble with your money,” said GOP Senate candidate Regina Birdsell of Hampstead.
She said any money generated through expanded gaming should be targeted for specific projects and not allocated to the state’s general fund, where it could be spent for a variety of purposes.
While Havenstein was the only gubernatorial hopeful to attend the breakfast and 90-minute forum, little-known Bob Heghmann was the only U.S. Senate candidate on hand from a 10-person GOP race that includes former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.
Along with Guinta, the other 1st District congressional candidates who participated were Everett Jabour and Dan Innis. They are all Republicans seeking the seat held by Carol Shea-Porter, who unseated Guinta in 2012.
The only congressional candidate from the 2nd District was Gary Lambert. He’s facing off against three other Republicans, including Marilinda Garcia of Salem in the battle for the seat held by Democratic incumbent Ann Kuster.
The Executive Council candidates who took part were incumbents Chris Sununu, a Republican, and Chris Pappas, a Democrat, along with two challengers. They are Democrat Robin McLane and Republican Jim Adams.
State Senate hopefuls who participated included the four candidates from the District 19 race.
They are Republicans Birdsell, James Foley of Derry and Frank Sapareto of Derry, along with Democrat Kristi St. Laurent of Windham. They seek to replace the retiring James Rausch, R-Derry.
The two candidates in Senate District 14 also participated. They are Republican incumbent Sharon Carson of Londonderry and Democratic challenger Kate Messner of Hudson.
The event, moderated by Joel Olbricht, was organized by the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.