Democrat Maggie Hassan, 54, was sworn-in today as the 81st governor of New Hampshire. She joins the other all-female top state elected officials in making New Hampshire the only state with all women in its top governmental slots. As-if to emphasize the point, at her inauguration, she was introduced by Speaker of the House Terie Norelli and she was sworn in by New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Delianis.
In her inaugural address which lasted about 30 minutes, Governor Hassan's message was one of a spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship and she has promised to carry-on the outgoing governor's popular middle-of-the-road approach to governing. Hassan follows Governor John Lynch who was the only NH governor to win 4 consecutive terms and who leaves office with still some of the highest approval ratings of any governor. In her speech, Hassan focused on “the big picture” for the state's goals rather than specific details.
Highlights of her speech include a pledge to veto any state sales or income tax, focus on growth by partnering with the state's schools and business to educate and retain talented students in-state rather than having them move away. She also pledged to return to higher funding for the state's colleges but in exchange she would expect tuition for in-state students to be capped at current costs.
Notably absent in the speech was any reference to guns or gun control. But, the Democratic majority in the state house has already as one of its first actions made the state house a gun-free zone, angering Republican who had just two years ago reversed the prior Democratic majority gun limiting rules to allow guns inside the state house. That debate and the back-and-forth swings will likely continue in the future.
Hassan becomes the fourth person from Exeter, NH, to serve as governor. Prior governors from Exeter were Charles Bell for one term in 1883, Jeremiah Smith for one term in 1810, and John Gilman who served during 1794 to 1805 and then again 1813 to 1816.
Simultaneous with the state house ceremony, the New Hampshire official web site switched to its new pages featuring Governor Hassan. That technicality and all the other features of the inauguration went seamlessly and without hitch. The event was well planned and executed.
Governor Hassan defeated Republican candidate Ovide Lamontagne in a hotly contested campaign. The Republicans had staked much of their message on Hassan and her record as state Senate leader, in an attempt to scare voters into believing she would increase spending and add either a state sales tax or state income tax or maybe even both. But, Hassan offered a pledge to veto any sales or income tax, completely deflating any Republican hopes along that theme. She won in November by more than 12 percentage points and many of the Democratic wins in the NH House of Representatives rode into office on her coat tails.
Republicans in addition suffered greatly from a stubborn resistance to give any ground on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion and health care. Social conservative fundamentalism by far overshadowed the Republican economic message and the party is finally asking serious questions of itself in trying to move forward with sufficient energy to regain some of the ground it lost in the last election. The same focus on conservative social issues caused Congressmen Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta to lose their seats to Ann Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter.