Manchester, NH- New Hampshire Republican gubernatorial candidates Andrew Hemingway and Walt Havenstein squared off Friday night in their last debate before the September 9th primary. Havenstein suffered from an incapability to articulate a distinct position on vital state issues, and thus was unable to define himself as the leading candidate. The fact that Havenstein cancelled three debates with Hemingway prior to Friday clearly did not help his campaign.
Despite Havenstein gaining support of establishment allies such as Mitt Romney, John McCain, Chris Christie, and NH State Senate candidate Jim Foley- who was recently outed for concealing his disbarment from law practice for embezzling- Andrew Hemingway triumphantly left the debate as the clear winner.
The contrast between Havenstein and Hemingway was difficult to miss as topics including marijuana decriminalization, New Hampshire’s economy and police militarization were discussed.
When asked about drugs and Governor Hassan’s response to the “spice” problem in the state, Hemingway said he is an advocate of marijuana decriminalization and criticized New Hampshire’s criminal penalty for small amounts of marijuana.
“Today in New Hampshire, we have such severe penalties on this that it pushes and creates a marketplace for these synthetic drugs,” said Hemingway.
Havenstein responded “I understand the nature of this problem, it is a very severe problem for our state. But I don’t think there are simple solutions. I don’t think there are simple solutions, if there were simple solutions, frankly we’d find those simple solutions. And it’s not merely a matter of decriminalizing marijuana.” Havenstein mentioned “looking at” decriminalization.
Havenstein and Hemingway discussed their plans to energize New Hampshire’s economy; Havenstein promised to create 25,000 new jobs by 2017 and reduce the business enterprise tax by 1.1%; Hemingway proposed a flat tax for businesses while eliminating the business profits tax and business enterprise tax and reducing the interest and dividends tax to reduce the burden. Havenstein called it a “tax on jobs when we’re trying to create jobs”, and Hemingway replied that his proposal would mean a reduction of the overall tax burden by nearly 42%.
The two candidates were asked about police militarization. The city of Keene discussed the future of their BearCat, an armored vehicle obtained by police through a federal grant application, and ultimately decided to keep it. Hemingway was asked if police militarization is becoming a problem, and he answered yes.
“To protect and to serve. That is ultimately the motto of police officers. And I believe perhaps that’s something that we have lost. This adoption of BearCats, these massive armored vehicles, the idea of them running through the streets of New Hampshire is frankly something that terrifies me and I think it terrifies a lot of individuals.”
Havenstein said that he does not think “massive arming up” of police is appropriate but that it’s up to the communities to decide of that type of equipment is appropriate.
WMUR-TV’s political analyst, James Pindell, graded the debate and gave Hemingway a B+, while Havenstein received a D, the lowest grade of all New Hampshire candidates analyzed following WMUR debates last week. WMUR coverage and analyses provides influence to New Hampshire elections.
“Havenstein gets the worst grade for any candidate all week for the simple reason that he had a terrible debate. He didn’t seem prepared for the most basic of questions. The feedback from Republican post-debate was all in unison: My goodness is he trying to lose?” wrote Pindell. The analyst did not have many words for Hemingway but wrote that “he came prepared and knowledgeable and energetic, even if it seemed over the top sometimes.”
Havenstein has been promoted by big-name GOP establishment candidates, many with unscrupulous records, throughout his campaign. Even with such support however, Havenstein has failed to resonate with voters. Hemingway has been labeled as an underdog in the past, but the campaign has been steadily gaining momentum. While he is not propped up by well-known names in the Republican party, Hemingway has become a favorite of independent-leaning conservatives and liberty-minded voters.
Hemingway’s victory at Friday’s debate has led to more grassroots support than ever before, with pro-liberty candidate PAC Stark360 organizing over 100 volunteers to distribute literature about Hemingway to voters this weekend in the final push before the primary.
Hemingway’s official campaign has its own team of about 100 volunteers making phone calls, knocking on doors, and other get-out-the-vote initiatives.
Stark360 has raised nearly $200,000 to help spread the word about Hemingway. Stark360’s volunteers in addition to official campaign volunteers could spell victory for Hemingway next Tuesday, as New Hampshire voters appear to crave a candidate with substance, solutions and integrity, not simply money and political influence.
Update #1, September 6th, 7:41 pm: Jim Foley has suspended his New Hampshire Senate campaign following news that Foley had poorly concealed his record of being disbarred from practicing law due to fraud.