On Monday, the three Democratic candidates for governor took part in a forum at NHTI hosted by SEA/SEIU Local 1984 for its members and by its members. This was the first of two forums, with the Republican event being planned for next month.
The event, which was organized and funded by the Political Education Committee, brought the candidates together in one place for the first time. The candidates include: Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand and former assistant secretary of state Mark Connolly. Each candidate delivered opening remarks before members began asking questions. After the event, members said they came away impressed by the trio.
“All three of them have great vision for what New Hampshire should look like going forward,” said Diana Richard, Chapter 16. “Because there were a lot of similarities between all three of them, it’s going to make the choice very difficult on who would do the best job as governor.”
The format of the event was a forum, not a debate, so the candidates weren’t easily able to draw contrasts between each other. That forced them to lean on their resumes and experiences to answer members’ questions.
“They were all great,” said Joan Hamblet, Chapter 41. “They’re all very smart guys.”
Van Ostern noted that his son had graduated from kindergarten at NHTI just the week before. He told members that he would approach the position of governor as a collaboration with public employees.
“If I win, we are going to be a whole team with 10,000 members,” he said.
Marchand highlighted his fiscal background, as well as his personal story – he’s a first generation American and worked his way through college – and worked to drive home a core belief on economic development: “public investment breeds private investment.”
Connolly talked about his 38 years of experience, including 15 years as a state employee. He was critical of financial decisions that he said have stagnated our economy. He also told attendees that if elected, he would not seek higher office.
This wasn’t the first time that SEA/SEIU Local 1984 has held a similar forum, but it is the first one held in 14 years. The event saw tremendous participation, with more than a hundred in attendance. Members from a variety of workplaces and backgrounds delivered questions, while others acted as timekeeper or ushered attendees to their seats. In addition, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members who work at NHTI – Bobby Strong, Mike Edgecomb and Kieran O’Brien – staffed the event. President Rich Gulla was proud of the level of participation.
“This is one of the reasons why, two years ago, I ran for president,” Gulla said. “We talk a lot about the union being all of us, not some building. This election and this endorsement process are so important, and I’m just happy to see members taking ownership of this event.”
This forum, as well as the upcoming Republican forum and individual candidate meetings with the Political Education (Poli Ed) Committee, are all part of the endorsement process that President Gulla was speaking about. The chair of Poli Ed, John Hattan, said he expected the meticulous process to continue throughout the summer. Poli Ed meets the second Monday of each month at 5 p.m. and all members are encouraged to attend. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.