The Democrats running for New Hampshire governor met in a Zoom forum hosted by Dartmouth College Thursday night, where they laid out competing strategies for how their party can win the corner office this year.
State Sen. Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky both made the case that Gov. Chris Sununu is blocking progress on issues ranging from education and voting rights, to the economy and the environment.
But the two candidates, both Concord lawyers, also worked to distinguish themselves from each other.
Feltes pitched himself as capable of leading on core Democratic issues, without sowing division within the party.
“Look, I don’t think we should be critical of other Democrats on clean energy when Chris Sununu is the singular obstacle to clean energy in this state,” said Feltes. “Just like I don’t think we should be critical of other Democrats on the most progressive budget in state history.”
Feltes argued his work in the Legislature, and the support his campaign has earned from other Democratic lawmakers, shows the wisdom of a lesson he said he learned early in life.
“I was always told by my mom: It’s about showing up, not sounding off,” Feltes said.
Volinsky countered that he’s used his seat at the Executive Council table to block high-profile Sununu nominations, including to the New Hampshire Supreme Court and key regulatory posts.
“I’m not a legislator, so I don’t pass legislation,” Volinsky said, “But I’m the one who stopped Sununu’s climate change deniers from leading our environmental services agency and the site evaluation committee.”
Throughout the forum, Volinsky cast himself as the more progressive candidate. Unlike Feltes, he opposes all new natural gas pipelines and won’t promise to veto new broad-based taxes. He also said Feltes’ claims of legislative success often fell short.
“That progressive budget? Guess where we are in the nation for state support of public education? We remain 50th in the nation for state support for public education,” Volinsky said. “Three great governors – Jeanne Shaheen, Maggie Hassan, and John Lynch – tried to close loopholes in order to solve school funding, and all failed.”
Both Democrats enter this race with low statewide name recognition, and with less campaign money than Sununu, a Republican who’s running for a third term as governor.