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In N.H., moderate's rise reflects new climate, 9/15/96

posted Jun 12, 2012, 5:54 AM by Bill Duncan

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In N.H., moderate's rise reflects new climate
[City Edition]

Boston Globe (pre-1997 Fulltext) - Boston, Mass.

Author: Royal Ford and Ralph Jimenez, Globe Staff
Date: Sep 15, 1996
Start Page: B.3
Section: METRO/REGION
Text Word Count: 1122

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MANCHESTER -- Kristen Blanchette is a 23-year-old barber with an independent political streak, a moderate who commonly splits her votes between Republicans and Democrats.

This year, she is drawn to Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic nominee for governor here.

"She's pro-choice and I'd like to see what a woman could do as governor," Blanchette said last week at the shop she shares with her stepfather. "The majority of my female friends are leaning toward her."

Blanchette is part of the rapidly evolving New Hampshire electorate, mercurial voters who have made the state less ideological and conservative than it once was and its elections more volatile.

Their ranks include independents, who make up about a third of the registered electorate, moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats and a group of disenfranchised, activist Republican women.

Records from the past two presidential elections show this to be a shifting force of about 170,000 active voters. They are, many observers say, the reason Bill Clinton got 50,000 more votes in 1992 than the Democrats got in the 1988 presidential race -- and why Ross Perot came from nowhere to win 120,000 votes here in 1992.

In a state where 500,000 to 600,000 people have voted in recent presidential election years, their numbers can be decisive.

They move in and out of elections -- often shunning primaries and then showing up for general elections -- in a state that enjoys a large and growing affluent class making good on a surging economy.

The state has not only regained all the jobs lost in the recession of the late-1980s, it has increased employment by 20 percent. There are 800 small software companies here that did not exist a decade ago. The construction of new homes is again booming in the southern tier.

Last year, the state ranked eighth in the nation in per capita income. Its people are among the nation's healthiest.

And it is this relative state of comfort that may make it hard for Bob Dole -- who trails Bill Clinton in this traditionally Republican state -- to make the case for change and cause problems for Republicans in statewide elections.

Ovide Lamontagne, Shaheen's Republican opponent, has a hard core of support on the right, which, by itself, makes him a formidable contender. Yet, this conservative band of voters generally does not like Bob Dole -- he has twice been rejected as presidential material here -- and moderate Republicans are not inspired by him.

More strategic than any coattail effect Clinton may have for Democratics here, analysts say, is whether an uninspired GOP core will vote in large numbers in state races.

Ron Jacques, Blanchette's stepfather, said that much of the talk in his shop, from people in both parties, is about Shaheen.

"I hear a lot about Shaheen," Jacques said. "Whether they plan to vote for her or not, they all think she has a chance."

It seems everyone believes that the three-term state senator stands a good chance of becoming New Hampshire's first woman governor.

A WMUR-UNH poll conducted just after the primary showed Shaheen with a 46-38 percent lead over Lamontagne. Interestingly, it showed that 27 percent of Republicans polled would vote for her, that she holds a 53-28 percent lead among voters who called themselves centrist, and that she leads 50-31 percent among women.

Many of those women may be Republicans -- including such influential leaders as former state Sen. Susan McLane and Rhona Charbonneau, former state GOP head -- who have given up on the party. National women's groups have come to Shaheen's aid and the Clinton White House is making a strong effort for the Democrats in all four major races here.

"I think the women's vote is going to be a huge factor," said Chris Gallagher, a Concord lawyer and Democratic activist.

Shaheen's abortion rights stance and focus on issues such as health care, day care and education all appeal to female voters.

Republicans such as Lamontagne, Sen. Bob Smith, congressional nominee John E. Sununu and Rep. Charles Bass may need to find a campaign message that moves them closer to the political middle.

For Democrats such as Shaheen, congressional nominees Joe Keefe and Deborah Arnie Arnesen, and Senate hopeful Dick Swett, it will mean trying to defend the moderate turf they positioned themselves to take during the primary season.

Control of the middle is crucial because the state's center has moved further from the far right, said Republican strategist Tom Rath.

"Ronald Reagan moved the center to the right, but today a moderate New Hampshire politician is someone like Judd Gregg," Rath said of the state's junior senator. "He is fiscally very conservative, as is his view on several social issues, but not all of them."

Lamontagne, who opposes abortion and has supported school prayer and the teaching of creationism in public schools, will have a hard time moving to the middle, said Gallagher, the Democratic analyst.

"After all, he is a product of the Union Leader," Gallagher said of the conservative statewide daily newspaper. "The people in the center are fiscal conservatives and social moderates. What they are expressing is a desire for the proper balance."

And as candidates from both sides look for that political balance-point, the middle is getting crowded -- a new situation for New Hampshire, where the right has ruled.

"We have in Shaheen someone who has not placed herself in the middle -- she has been there for years," Gallagher said.

Rath, as the Republican opposition will do, questions Shaheen's sincerity in avoiding the third rail of New Hampshire politics, advocacy of a general sales or income tax.

"I think what you will see is a tremendous distinction between what her position actually is and what her purported position is," said Rath, who added that in 1990 Shaheen predicted the state would need such a tax.

Yet, while Rath insists taxes will again be the hub of this year's political wheel, there are indications that that mercurial middle may be looking for a broader spectrum of issues.

Scores of moderate Republicans -- including elected officials -- unhappy with their party's position on abortion and other social issues are campaigning for Shaheen. Even some of her opponents characterize her as middle-of-the-road.

"She's a moderate. No question about it,"said Gary Matteson, a farmer and businessman who served as US. Rep. Bill Zeliff's campaign chairman in the town of Epsom.

He said that on election night, he heard from Zeliff people after their moderate candidate lost to Lamontagne that they were considering a switch to Shaheen.

"I've heard that a lot," Sydna Zeliff, the vanquished congressman's wife, said just hours before her husband hugged Lamontagne and issued a call for Republicans to unite behind him to defeat Shaheen.

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Abstract (Document Summary)


Kristen Blanchette is a 23-year-old barber with an independent political streak, a moderate who commonly splits her votes between Republicans and Democrats.

Their ranks include independents, who make up about a third of the registered electorate, moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats and a group of disenfranchised, activist Republican women.

Ovide Lamontagne, [Jeanne] Shaheen's Republican opponent, has a hard core of support on the right, which, by itself, makes him a formidable contender. Yet, this conservative band of voters generally does not like Bob Dole -- he has twice been rejected as presidential material here -- and moderate Republicans are not inspired by him.

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Aspiring governors debate credibility, 9/25/96

posted Jun 12, 2012, 5:02 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Jun 12, 2012, 5:03 AM ]

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Aspiring governors debate credibility
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Boston Globe (pre-1997 Fulltext) - Boston, Mass.

Author: Royal Ford, Globe Staff
Date: Sep 25, 1996
Start Page: B.6
Section: METRO/REGION
Text Word Count: 453

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CAMPAIGN '96 / NEW HAMPSHIRE

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- In their first head-to-head debate in what promises to be a contentious race for governor, Ovide Lamontagne and Jeanne Shaheen each raised doubts yesterday about whether the other could be trusted to run the state.

Shaheen, with references to Lamontagne's tenure as chairman of the state Board of Education, during which he helped block school districts from receiving $9 million in federal assistance and supported the idea of teaching both creationism and evolution, charged that his fealty to conservative ideology would prevent him from governing fairly.

Lamontagne, a Republican, said he doubts Shaheen because she is a Democrat who has adopted traditional Republican positions, including a vow to veto any general sales or income tax.

Shaheen's tax pledge "defies credibility," he said.

In the hourlong encounter, sponsored by the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, the two also tangled over how to improve the business future of New Hampshire, control taxes, and improve education. Another focus was Shaheen's role in battling for deregulation of the electric industry and the fight for lower electric rates in a state with the nation's highest.

On taxes, Lamontagne called himself the more believable fiscal conservative because he shares the New Hampshire "abhorrence to broad-base sales or income taxes."

Shaheen responded that Lamontagne was guilty of "the same old rhetoric" and that she has "never supported, never voted for" a broad-based tax.

Asked how he would improve public education in a state where local property taxes foot most of the school bill, Lamontagne said that as governor he would urge that schools return to a curriculum that emphasizes character and citzenship.

Shaheen countered that Lamontagne, during his years in charge of the state board of education, has "been more concerned with your ideology" than tackling difficult issues.

She faulted him for blocking New Hampshire from obtaining federal funds through the Goals 2000 program, depriving school districts of millions in aid.

With New Hampshire in the midst of deregulating its electric industry and at odds with the Public Service Co. of N.H. and its parent, Northeast Utilities, the two then tangled over Shaheen's claims that she has been a leader in that effort.

Shaheen has been "demogoguing" the issue when, in fact, Republicans, led by Gov. Steve Merrill, had been at the point in the battle, Lamontagne said.

Shaheen, who on the stump has used the fight against the utilities as an example of her ability to work forcefully in a bipartisan way, contended that she had introduced some of the original legislation on behalf of businesses and consumers and that when the issue of electric rates went to court, she was the only legislator signing a friend of the court brief.

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Abstract (Document Summary)


PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- In their first head-to-head debate in what promises to be a contentious race for governor, Ovide Lamontagne and Jeanne Shaheen each raised doubts yesterday about whether the other could be trusted to run the state.

Shaheen, with references to Lamontagne's tenure as chairman of the state Board of Education, during which he helped block school districts from receiving $9 million in federal assistance and supported the idea of teaching both creationism and evolution, charged that his fealty to conservative ideology would prevent him from governing fairly.

Lamontagne, a Republican, said he doubts Shaheen because she is a Democrat who has adopted traditional Republican positions, including a vow to veto any general sales or income tax.

Lamontagne goes beyond extremes N.H. hopeful pushes values, local power, Oct 13, 1996

posted Jun 12, 2012, 4:47 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Jun 12, 2012, 4:53 AM ]

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Lamontagne goes beyond extremes N.H. hopeful pushes values, local power
[City Edition]

Boston Globe (pre-1997 Fulltext) - Boston, Mass.

Author: Royal Ford, Globe Staff
Date: Oct 13, 1996
Start Page: B.5
Section: METRO/REGION
Text Word Count: 1081

Document Text


MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Critics have a field day with Ovide Lamontagne. Some brand the Republican candidate for governor an "extremist." One newspaper columnist tagged him a "a wingnut male from the far right."

But once you see him in debate or on the stump, visit him in his posh law offices or walk the blue-collar neighborhood where he grew up, it is quickly apparent that pinning this man on the far edge of the political spectrum is simplistic at best.

Lamontagne emerges instead as a clear conservative whose politics are rooted in his firm values, his French Catholic heritage and his overriding belief that political decisions are best made locally.

It is, in fact, his absolute faith in local control -- he would, for instance, allow local school districts to decide on isues as controversial as prayer, condom distribution and the teaching of creationism in the classroom -- that makes some call him extreme. Others, however, say his is just a strain of the libertarianism that so colors New Hampshire politics.

"I believe in New Hampshire traditions, a state that is business-friendly where spending and taxes are low," the chairman of the state board of education said in an interview this week. "I believe in respecting the right of people to make their own decisions on education, things like fire protection and police."

Lamontagne, at 39, lives in the same southern end of Manchester where he grew up. It is a sprawl of tidy woodframe homes, a hockey arena, an old ballpark, apartment houses, a scattering of industrial buildings. His children are the third generation of Lamontagnes to attend the neighborhood parochial school. Just blocks away, drugs and violence have begun to seep onto the streets of Manchester. President Clinton is expected to appear in this very neighborhood tomorrow.

Gritty Manchester must be a pocket of strength for Lamontagne if he is to win his battle with Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic nominee whose appeal will likely be strongest in more upscale cities like Keene, Concord and Portsmouth.

He hopes to keep his own appeal simple.

He said he admires Ronald Reagan because the former president was "very sincere on some very important but simple propositions."

He likes to talk up his conviction that "given opportunity, people will do what is best for them." He holds to that view, even though he knows it is a policy that sometimes carries a price.

"I understand that this is a two-edged sword," he says, "because it means some communities will decide to do things I would not agree with."

Richard Winters, a professor of politics at Dartmouth College, says it is hard to parse Lamontagne's broad agenda because, except for his tenure at the board of education, his political background is not deep.

"He's got no hooks or handles," said Winters.

While some have called him a calculating ideologue, Republican State Rep. Donna Sytek, who almost certainly will be the next speaker of the House, calls him "a warm man, serene in his skin."

He is selling himself as a New Hampshire native who likes to hunt, fish, ski and snowmobile, and one as concerned for the next generation as his parents were for him.

"I am the next generation of the last generation," he told a gathering of students at Belmont High School during a mock political convention.

Lamontagne, like nearly a third of the population in New Hampshire, is a descendant of a family that emigrated here from Canada in the late-1800s to work the mills. He is proud that he speaks French and he has worked to cultivate Franco-American culture.

He attended Manchester parochial schools and graduated from Catholic University in Washington in 1979. There, he met his wife, Elizabeth, to whom he has been married for 17 years.

He taught high school social studies in Maryland and Wyoming, earned his law degree at Wyoming College of Law in 1985 and returned to New Hampshire a year later. As a lawyer, he represents businesses in commercial disputes, somtimes at trial, sometimes as a mediator.

In 1992, he lost a bid for the Republican congressional nomination.

In 1993, he was appointed chairman of the board of education. It was in this role that the strongest evidence emerged of what he stands for and where the strongest controversies swirled around him.

In particular, he was attacked for opposing the federal Goals 2000 program, which would have shipped millions of dollars to the states for education. Lamontagne said there were too many federal strings attached and, for a year, helped block New Hampshire schools from the funds.

He took this move, he told students at the Belmont mock convention, because the state was being asked to "turn over the keys to education in New Hampshire" to Washington.


After he testified before Congress and an amendment allowed local districts to apply -- instead of the entire state -- he backed the program and just last week money began to flow into some local districts.

He says that as governor, he would work to repeal the state's tenure law, which he calls overprotective of teachers; help groups that want to form charter schools; and make merit pay for teachers part of the collective bargaining process. He would also favor a voucher system so parents could send their children to public, private or religious-affiliated schools.

Like Shaheen, he has taken the pledge to veto a general sales or income tax and he questions her credibility in adopting what has been the ideological standard of Republicans here.

His toughest challenge in his race with Shaheen may be the gender gap. A WMUR-TV/UNH poll taken just after the September primary showed Lamontagne leading among men, 46-41 percent, but Shaheen enjoying a 50-31 percent lead among women.

"If there is a gender gap, it's because people don't know me in that regard," says Lamontagne, who points to his tenure on the governor's Commission on Domestic Violence, the presence of women in his campaign and the role of women on the board of education.

Lamontagne is opposed to abortion in all instances except to save the life of the mother. He and his wife have adopted two daughters, Madeleine, 9, and Brittany 7, in addition to taking in foster children. He says that his antiabortion stance in a state where most residents favor abortion rights will not hurt him because New Hampshire has had many antiabortion governors.[Illustration]
PHOTO; CAPTION:Ovide Lamontagne's politics are rooted in his firm values. / GLOBE FILE PHOTO



Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
Abstract (Document Summary)


MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Critics have a field day with Ovide Lamontagne. Some brand the Republican candidate for governor an "extremist." One newspaper columnist tagged him a "a wingnut male from the far right."

Lamontagne emerges instead as a clear conservative whose politics are rooted in his firm values, his French Catholic heritage and his overriding belief that political decisions are best made locally.

Lamontagne, at 39, lives in the same southern end of Manchester where he grew up. It is a sprawl of tidy woodframe homes, a hockey arena, an old ballpark, apartment houses, a scattering of industrial buildings. His children are the third generation of Lamontagnes to attend the neighborhood parochial school. Just blocks away, drugs and violence have begun to seep onto the streets of Manchester. President Clinton is expected to appear in this very neighborhood tomorrow.

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