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On Taxes and Character, Democratic Candidates For N.H. Governor Highlight Differences

State Sen. Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky debated Monday night on WMUR-TV.

The two Democrats running for New Hampshire governor met in debate Monday night on WMUR-TV.

Both candidates, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky and state Sen. Dan Feltes, are pitching themselves as progressives and agree on most policy issues. But both worked to sharpen differences in their first debate before a statewide audience.

Primary Day is Sept. 8. Learn more about the candidates with NHPR's Elections 2020 coverage.

The pair clashed repeatedly over what may be their biggest policy difference: openness to new broad-based taxes and the traditional “pledge” against such taxes that has loomed over New Hampshire politics for decades.

Volinsky said all options need to be on the table to address inequities in school funding. Feltes has pledged to oppose any new broad-based taxes.

“You will hear a lot from Andru, ‘The pledge this, the pledge that,’ but you don’t hear any plans,” Feltes said. “And let’s be clear: Talking about the pledge without talking about your plans is just politics as usual.”

Volinsky said rejecting the blanket pledge against broad-based taxes was a necessary break from the past.

“Well, the pledge is politics as usual,” he said. “I’m happy to explain the problem with school funding.”

Policy aside, the pledge may have political ramifications, as well: No New Hampshire Democrat has won their party’s nomination without promising to oppose broad-based taxes since 2002.

NHPR's voter guide: How to vote in New Hampshire during the pandemic

The men also clashed over questions of character. Feltes, a former a legal aid lawyer, cast fellow lawyer Volinsky as someone who’s done the bidding of  corporate interests throughout his career.

“Andru was on the other side during the Great Recession, representing a title company that was alleged to defraud people out of their homes,” Feltes said. “So, this is fundamentally about who you trust.”

Volinsky said Feltes was mischaracterizing his work for that company. Meanwhile, he charged that Feltes’ reversals on campaign finance show he can’t be trusted. 

“I said I wouldn’t take PAC money and I wouldn’t take LLC money and I’ve never had to return money because I didn’t live up to my own standards, as Dan has,” Volinsky said.

The televised debate, which was held in a socially distanced format, was the candidates’ lone meeting before a statewide audience.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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