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At Exeter Forum, Democrats Running For Governor Try To Set Themselves Apart

Annie Ropeik

The two Democratic candidates for New Hampshire governor did their best to differentiate themselves at a forum in Exeter Wednesday night.  

The Rockingham County Democrats hosted the event. It was one of the first times Molly Kelly and Steve Marchand have debated face to face in their primary campaign.

Many in the audience asked questions in search of distinctions – but the answers they heard focused more on style than policy.

Marchand told the standing room-only crowd at the Exeter Inn that the level of detail in his proposals sets him apart:

“The preparedness to be able to take a desired solution,” he says, “to be unafraid to be specific and bold about what we think the answer is to the biggest problems we face.”

Meanwhile, Kelly pointed to what she called her record of bipartisanship while in the state Senate:

“I am able … and continue to bring people together to collaborate and to solve problems," she says. 

But the two focused most of all on their differences with Gov. Chris Sununu, a first-term Republican. Both pledged more progressive stances on energy, education, and health care policies than Sununu.

Many audience questions also focused on renewable energy. Both Democrats say they’d support expanding its use in the state and moving away from fossil fuels, including natural gas.

One focus was on Liberty Utilities’ Granite Bridge pipeline proposal, which would run through Exeter along Route 101 on its way between Manchester and Stratham.

When pressed by an audience member, Kelly would not say she opposed the project specifically. She says she’ll study the proposal carefully, and would oppose any project that increased the state’s carbon footprint and posed safety risks.    

But the bottom line for voters in the room may have been that either Democrat would be better than Sununu in the general election. 

"I'm convinced after this evening that whoever wins on September 11th, we're going to have a great candidate for governor," said Larry Drake, chair of the Rockingham County Democrats. "And we need to close ranks on September 12th." 

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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