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Ted Gatsas On His Campaign For Governor, The Opioid Crisis, Expanded Medicaid, And More

Paige Sutherland/NHPR
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas.

The mayor of New Hampshire’s largest city now wants to be New Hampshire’s next governor.

Republican Ted Gatsas of Manchester announced on Thursday he would seek the Republican Party’s nomination for the corner office.

He joins Executive Councilor Chris Sununu and State Representative Frank Edelblut in the GOP field.

Shortly after that announcement, Mayor Gatsas spoke with Weekend Edition about the campaign and some of the issues the next governor may face.

You’ve pondered a run for governor before. What convinced you this was the right year?

Well, I got a clean bill of health from the doctor, and after conversations with my wife and my mother, they thought it was time to do it.

One of the issues you’ve been very vocal about is the opioid crisis in New Hampshire and especially in Manchester. We’re seeing a lot of activity – federal, state and local – what, if anything, do you think is making a difference right now and what, if anything, would you do differently as governor?

There’s no question that it’s no longer just a heroin issue, it’s a fentanyl issue. The deaths up until Monday were 26 in the city of Manchester; that’s ahead of where we were last year, and I know the count is higher in New Hampshire. We need to look and see what we can do. My belief is, if you’re caught dealing fentanyl, and somebody dies and it can be tied back to a dealer, they should be arrested for attempted murder. We have to put some pretty stiff penalties in place to make sure that the dealers turn around and stop doing what they’re doing.

Governor Hassan had asked state lawmakers for $5 million more for the substance abuse programs in Senate Bill 533. The Senate Finance Committee authorized about half that. What’s the right number?

Certainly talking about dollars is important, but talking about lives is more important. We need to first find out how we’re going to stop it at the top, because no matter what we fund on the bottom side, it’s not going to be enough, because people will die before they get the services. We need to take a look at where we are; we need to find the most cost-effective way of doing it. Just to say “here’s a number” doesn’t make sense. We need to say, can we do this with recovery coaches in a less expensive way? What is the best way of serving the public in the state of New Hampshire?

You’re one of three candidates in the GOP field; there may be more. What is the way forward for you to win this primary?

I don’t ever run against anybody, I run for the office, and I’ve done that in every election since 1999. People know I don’t run against them, I run for the office, and put my experience and my leadership and my record on the line so people can see it, and show the accomplishments we’ve had here in the city of Manchester. And I believe we can bring those same accomplishments to the state of New Hampshire.

Let’s talk quickly about some additional issues: first, what would you like to see happen with the state’s expanded Medicaid program for low-income adults, under the Affordable Care Act?

We have 46,000 people that are covered by it. I think it we can get folks to primary care physicians instead of emergency rooms, that’s good. We need to take a look at programs they may be using in other states to see if we can fine-tune the one we have in place. We have to make sure it doesn’t cost the taxpayers any dollars.

Should the state be open to contracting with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in the future for women’s health services?

I can tell you that in the Senate I voted against funding for Planned Parenthood in the past. I would vote against any public funding for Planned Parenthood.

On proposals to expand gambling in New Hampshire, such as casinos or keno, what, if anything, might you support and under what conditions?

I would have to see the bill and see exactly what it says and make sure that it protects the state. And I would never use any of those revenues as part of the budget process, because you don’t know whether they will continue or not.

What do you make of the proposal to put a commuter rail line from southern New Hampshire to Boston, which could include two stops in Manchester and another in Nashua?

It’s important to see what time those stops are going to be and what it’s going to cost people. Most importantly, it’s got to come down and be analyzed about cost. It’s important that we talk about finishing I-93, because when I was a senator, that completion cost was $190 million. It’s over and above $400 million [now], so I-93 must be completed.

New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, but there are still concerns about the future of the state economy and the workforce. What would you like to see happen?

Let’s find ways we can reduce the BPT and BET, the business taxes. Once you do that with companies, they will hire people and bring people to work. Let’s get out of the way of business and let them do what they do best, and that’s hire people and get things done.

It looks like you’re going to be working two jobs for a while. How do you think this campaign might affect your work as mayor of Manchester.

I don’t think it’ll affect it at all. I was in a campaign just a few months ago, and I was still the mayor and I think people would tell you I was still doing a great job. I will continue doing a good job for the city of Manchester, and I will run a very, very good campaign running for governor.

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