State senator set to challenge N.H. governor in race
Only Republican to face incumbent
CONCORD, N.H. - State Senator Joseph D. Kenney entered the race for the Republican gubernatorial primary yesterday, attacking his probable opponent, Democratic incumbent John Lynch, as leading the state on a spending spree.
The three-term senator from Wakefield is the only Republican in the race to face Lynch in November. Lynch is expected to file for a third term today.
Kenney said he was tired of watching New Hampshire become more like Massachusetts. His campaign signs tout his motto: "Let's Keep New Hampshire New Hampshire."
"I want to stop the spending spree in Concord that is setting us up for an income or sales tax and has already increased over 30 taxes and fees on New Hampshire citizens," said Kenney, 47.
The senator is a Marine reserve lieutenant colonel. Before his election to the Senate, he served four terms in the House. He has supported Republican initiatives such as requiring photo identification to vote. He opposed raising the minimum wage, banning smoking in restaurants, and allowing video slots at the state's racetracks.
Kenney touted his pledge to be fiscally conservative by agreeing to abide by New Hampshire's voluntary campaign spending limit for governor of $625,000 in the primary and another $625,000 in the general election.
"As governor, I would impose a spending limit on the state of New Hampshire," he said. "We need to take the money out of politics."
Kenney criticized Lynch and Democratic lawmakers who pushed through a bill last week allowing the state to borrow up to $80 million over two years to balance the state budget. Kenney said he would have cut spending instead, such as state money for land conservation. The program should have its own funding source, he said.
On other issues, Kenney would privatize operation of New Hampshire's Cannon Mountain ski area. He would not support the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which Lynch planned to sign into law later yesterday. He would use the bully pulpit as governor to make the Veterans Administration Hospital in Manchester full service.
Kenney pledged to veto an income and sales tax, a pledge Lynch has also made.
Kenney insisted that no one is unbeatable, even the popular Lynch.
"I can't think of anyone better [to take on Lynch] than someone who's been a New Hampshire Marine," Kenney said.
Lynch, 55, of Hopkinton, first won office in 2004 by unseating an unpopular Republican governor, promising to bring civility and bipartisanship to state government. He easily beat a little-known state representative for a second term two years ago, when, unlike his first term, Lynch had a Democratic majority in the Senate, House, and on the Executive Council to work with. Lynch ran on an anti-broad-based tax platform and effectively squelched consideration of the taxes by his pledge to veto a sales or income tax.
Lynch tried but failed to persuade enough Democrats to support a constitutional amendment to allow the state to distribute most state school aid to the neediest towns. The Senate adopted amendments last year and again this year, but the House rejected them.
Lynch reluctantly allowed a new school aid system to become law without his signature this week, because it would not be fully implemented until 2012.
As successes, Lynch lists increasing the compulsory school attendance age to 18, expanding a children's health insurance program, expanding services to the disabled on a waiting list, and increasing the minimum wage for the first time in a decade. He also points to implementing a job training fund, a ban on burning toxic construction and demolition debris, a new law fostering development of renewable energy, funding a land conservation program, and maintaining a balanced budget.
Lynch backed three increases to the cigarette tax to pay for services. He also signed a civil union law granting the same privileges and responsibilities of marriage to gays.
Before his 2004 election, Lynch was president of a consulting firm, The Lynch Group, in Manchester. Before that, he had been admissions director of Harvard Business School and president and chief executive of Knoll Inc., a Pennsylvania furniture company.