In Hanover, Democrats seeking to replace Sununu sound more alike than different

Cinde Warmington, center, New Hampshire Executive Council member and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, talks to during Neil Misra, left, a member of the New Hampshire Young Democrats from Salem, N.H., and Dartmouth student JJ Dega during a meet and greet with the New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidates at Dartmouth’s Moore Building in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Warmington highlighted her experience working across the aisle in Concord, where she is the only Democratic member of the Executive Council, in order to accomplish her goals. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Cinde Warmington, center, New Hampshire Executive Council member and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, talks to during Neil Misra, left, a member of the New Hampshire Young Democrats from Salem, N.H., and Dartmouth student JJ Dega during a meet and greet with the New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidates at Dartmouth’s Moore Building in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Warmington highlighted her experience working across the aisle in Concord, where she is the only Democratic member of the Executive Council, in order to accomplish her goals. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

From left, New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidates Joyce Craig, Jonathan Kiper and Cinde Warmington participate in a forum at Dartmouth’s Filene Auditorium in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Craig highlighted her executive experience as the former mayor of Manchester, N.H., in working through complex problems facing the state, like addressing the opioid epidemic. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From left, New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidates Joyce Craig, Jonathan Kiper and Cinde Warmington participate in a forum at Dartmouth’s Filene Auditorium in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Craig highlighted her executive experience as the former mayor of Manchester, N.H., in working through complex problems facing the state, like addressing the opioid epidemic. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America photographs — Alex Driehaus

Audience members listen to New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidates speak during a forum at Dartmouth’s Filene Auditorium in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. The event was co-sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, the Dartmouth Democrats, the NH College Democrats and the New Hampshire Young Democrats. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Audience members listen to New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidates speak during a forum at Dartmouth’s Filene Auditorium in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. The event was co-sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, the Dartmouth Democrats, the NH College Democrats and the New Hampshire Young Democrats. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Katherine Goyette, left, of Lebanon, N.H., talks to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Kiper during a meet and greet with the New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidates at Dartmouth’s Moore Building in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Kiper spoke at length about the need to increase housing stock across the state, and emphasized the expanding political power of of younger voters, particularly millennials and gen z, especially if they vote together as a bloc. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Katherine Goyette, left, of Lebanon, N.H., talks to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Kiper during a meet and greet with the New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidates at Dartmouth’s Moore Building in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Kiper spoke at length about the need to increase housing stock across the state, and emphasized the expanding political power of of younger voters, particularly millennials and gen z, especially if they vote together as a bloc. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

By CHRISTINA DOLAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-23-2024 8:01 PM

HANOVER — With New Hampshire’s gubernatorial primaries just over three months away, three Democratic hopefuls shared a stage on the Dartmouth campus Wednesday night to address issues relevant to young voters.

Democratic Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, former three-term Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, and Newmarket restaurateur Jonathan Kiper spoke in the Filene Auditorium on topics submitted by an audience of about 100 people, which included community members as well as Dartmouth students.

While the candidates all fielded different questions on their strategies to address affordable housing, education funding, climate change and voter suppression, the moderators raised a topic close to home for the audience. Warmington was asked whether she would have supported a law enforcement response to the May 1 pro-Palestinian protest on the Dartmouth campus during which 89 people were arrested.

“We need to allow anyone to protest,” Warmington said. “When that crosses into violence, there needs to be interaction to make sure that we keep the community safe. But just because people are saying things that are disagreeable, even offensive is not a reason to intervene. And I think people need to be allowed to express themselves,” she concluded to applause.

Likely because the candidates’ platforms are not dissimilar, the speakers tended to focus on their individual backgrounds and how their experiences made them prepared to effect change in Concord. Billed as a discussion rather than a debate, the event — co-sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, the Dartmouth Democrats, the New Hampshire College Democrats and the New Hampshire Young Democrats — had the collegial feel of a team working earnestly toward a shared purpose.

All three candidates spoke to the working-class backgrounds that inform their approaches and commitments, especially to education, housing, and the opioid crisis.

Craig, 56, pointed to her accomplishments in Manchester in reducing opioid-related deaths by 15% during her terms of office and her work to boost environmentally sustainable jobs. Kiper, 41, referenced the difficulty of raising a family in a 750-square-foot apartment above his restaurant in stressing the importance of affordable housing. And Warmington, 67, credited her family’s bankruptcy when she was a teenager with instilling her with the “grit” she ascribed to her success in politics.

Warmington, though, did not pull any punches when it came to possible Republican rival Kelly Ayotte, calling her “wrong on every issue” and blasting her for giving millions in tax breaks to oil and gas companies and trying to downplay her opposition to abortion.

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Ayotte campaign spokesman John Corbett responded Thursday, saying that Kelly supports New Hampshire’s current law, “which protects women’s freedom to obtain an abortion for any reason up to six months of pregnancy and provides exceptions in the last three months for a medical emergency or a fatal fetal anomaly.”

Quinn Allred, a sophomore at Dartmouth and a member of the Dartmouth Democrats, said that although there weren’t many differences of opinion on stage, he thought that allowed the candidates to reveal the “pragmatic side” of their strategies for challenging Republican rivals.

Kiper, for example, leaned into his blue-collar background as he emphasized the importance to the Democrats of attracting unaffiliated, young and working-class voters. “We need to pull Sununu voters and look for issues that get everyone excited,” he said.

Hanover resident Barry Harwick, 69, echoed Kiper’s emphasis on the youth vote by pointing to the 2016 election and noting that “if Dartmouth students hadn’t voted, Kelly Ayotte would be in the Senate right now.” Ayotte, who was a U.S. Senator from 2011-2017 and a former New Hampshire Attrorney General, lost to U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., by just over a thousand votes in that election.

Harwick, now retired, often serves as a poll worker and said that Dartmouth students often tell him that they prefer to register as New Hampshire voters because they believe their votes have more impact here.

Warmington earned a spontaneous round of applause when she blasted N.H. Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut and ‘Republican extremists” for “systematically dismantling our public schools,” and that that the “$66 million that is going to go to his voucher scheme would be better spent on higher education.”

Edelblut responded by email Thursday afternoon to Warmington’s comments, writing that the state’s Education Freedom Account program is “expanding academic opportunities throughout the state” and “helping students secure the best pathway for them to learn, thrive and be engaged.”

The education discussion focused intently on the importance of vocational training, with Kiper praising New Hampshire’s vocational schools and referring to it as a “marketing problem” that vocational training has been downplayed over the past 20 years in favor of encouraging kids to go to college. Craig, for her part, emphasized the damaging unfairness of unequal funding in New Hampshire.

“We need to stop pitting communities against one another,” she said.

Both the Democratic and Republican Party primaries take place on Tuesday, Sept. 10 in New Hampshire. The results will determine which candidates will compete in the election on Nov. 5.

Christina Dolan can be reached at cdolan@vnews.com or 603-727-3208.