The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Virtual 2020 New Hampshire Democratic Gubernatorial Primary Forum

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On Thursday, July 16th, 2020, the Rockefeller Center welcomed the Dartmouth community to a virtual 2020 New Hampshire Democratic Gubernatorial Primary Forum. Democratic candidates Dan Feltes and Andru Volinsky joined Rockefeller Center Senior Lecturer and Policy Fellow Charles Wheelan ’88 for a discussion pertaining to issues in the race for New Hampshire Governor.

While Senator Feltes and Councilor Volinsky hold diverging opinions on a variety of issues, they come from eerily similar backgrounds. Both candidates grew up in working-class families and therefore are strong advocates for the ordinary New Hampshire citizen. Moreover, both candidates have a legacy of experience in the legal world, with Feltes having spent almost a decade as a legal aid attorney and Volinsky having served as the lead lawyer in the 1997 Claremont school funding case and currently serving on the Executive Council for New Hampshire’s 2nd district.

Both candidates also strongly concur that current New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu must be defeated in the upcoming election, with Senator Feltes boldly stating, “the biggest barrier facing our state is Chris Sununu.” Both candidates agree that Sununu has performed well below par in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising property taxes, floundering public education, the opioid crisis, and climate change concerns.

When evaluating Sununu’s response to the current pandemic, each candidate has his vision of how the state should better respond. Counselor Volinsky proposes that masks be required by the state in public spaces and that there should be air exchangers mandated in all schools, noting that “the safety of our children should not be a political issue.” Senator Feltes agrees in many aspects, faulting Governor Sununu for not providing clear and concrete guidance and stating that “you are safer in a New Hampshire Walmart than you are in a New Hampshire school.”

Another hot topic of discussion in the upcoming election pertains to climate change concerns and the proposed Granite State fracked gas pipeline. Councilor Volinsky is noted for being a champion of climate change action, endorsed by the Sierra Club, among other organizations. Volinsky adamantly opposes the construction of the pipeline and supports a carbon tax as part of a broader view on tackling climate change. Senator Feltes agrees that climate change is an issue and that we need to invest more in clean energy jobs and reducing energy rates. However, Feltes approves the construction of the pipeline, “if it is needed to meet home heating needs.”

In the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, both candidates were also asked to discuss their stance on racial injustice in New Hampshire. Senator Feltes declares that it is not enough to not be racist, we need to be actively anti-racist, citing the need to tackle housing discrimination and establish an Office of

Racial Equality to examine systemic racism in our state. Councilor Volinsky holds a similar stance, but focuses more on the need to restructure the police system to diversify police forces and provide implicit bias training to all officers.

The candidates concluded the forum with very divergent claims. Councilor Volinsky closed by stating, “we are all dems, but the differences are important,” claiming that Governor Sununu’s response to a variety of challenges has fallen significantly short. By contrast, Senator Feltes emphasized that his platform is based on the unity of democrats and bridging the divide that separates many members of the democratic party. It will be interesting to see how the election in September unfolds and if either candidate will emerge victorious in the battle against Sununu.

-Written by Sydney Towle ‘22, Public Programming Student Assistant

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The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences