MANCHESTER – When the dust settled and the debate was history, the two major Republican candidates for governor were alone in the WGIR studios to hash out what had just occurred.
Walt Havenstein was clearly and visibly outraged, feeling that in an hour-long debate, Andrew Hemingway had questioned his integrity by quoting a New York City District attorney as saying the company Havenstein once headed, SAIC, had committed “colossal fraud” in the handling of a major contract with City of New York.
Listen to the full podcast of this morning’s debate on WGIR radio here. The debate was moderated by “New Hampshire Today” host Jack Heath, who asked questions along with New Hampshire Journal News Editor John DiStaso.
The hot exchange began when Havenstein, who announced having raised nearly $2 million so far in the campaign, said he is proud of his endorsements from establishment Republicans and released more than 200 grassroots supporters from Hillsborough County, headed by former Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorek and former state Sen. John Stabile.
Hemingway said it is “the greatest non-story of the campaign” that Havenstein has raised more money than him. He said he did not spend several years “inside the Beltway handing out money to Democrats…including donations to Harry Reid, donations to Jeanne Shaheen.”
“We have the true grassroots campaign here,” said Hemingway.
“When it comes to donating to Jeanne Shaheen or Harry Reid, that’s a lie,” said Havenstein, who insisted that he had no control over the SAIC PAC’s donations to Democrats, despite being the CEO of the company.
“I have given hundreds of thousands during my lifetime to conservative and Republican candidates. And while Andrew Hemingway was standing in protest of Mitt Romney coming to New Hampshire, I was contributing over $100,000 to defeat Barack Obama.”
Havenstein insisted that despite being CEO of Science Applications International Corporation, he had no input in who the PAC gave to.
“I had no direct link to the decisions made when it came to the distribution of the PAC funds,” Havenstein said.
Hemingway said, “As the CEO of a corporation I find it beyond belief that as a defense contractor,” Havenstein did not participate in the decision.
“This sort of model in Washington and around Washington is what breeds corruption,” Hemingway said.
Hemingway said Havenstein also should have shunned contracts with the government under the Affordable Care Act, since he has said he opposed the law.
“I think that’s an issue of character,” Hemingway said. “We have seen example after example of CEOs of private companies acting their personal political beliefs.”
Havenstein answered, “This is remarkable, how little Andrew knows about business in a publicly traded company.” He said he made decisions on contracts daily based on the direction of the market, the interests of his customers, employees and shareholders.
He said as a governor decisions are made based on “what’s in the best interests of the state.”
Hemingway said the U.S. District Attorney in New York “deemed this time period” when Havenstein led the company, “quote, ‘a colossal fraud.’” Hemingway said he was not accusing Havenstein of fraud, but merely quoting the District Attorney.
Havenstein answered that he “uncovered a colossal mess” when he came to SAIC, “worked diligently with the District Attorney to fix it, and that’s exactly what I did.”
“The reason there’s a SAIC today is the work that I along with the board of directors did.
“And to insinuate that there is any fraud on my part is irresponsible and, frankly, is the double-talk that make citizens so disrespectful of politics.”
Havenstein continued, “To insinuate for a second that my character is anything less than impeccable and my performance at SAIC or BAE Systems or the Marine Corps was anything less than honorable, I find totally ‘apprehensible,’” Havenstein said.
He said Hemingway was “implying” that he committed fraud, “and for you to do that against my history of service to this country…I got to tell you, that is very disturbing. I’m so disappointed in you for doing that.”
The private post-debate conversation in the studio last approximately 10 minutes, the two emerged and went their separate ways.
The debate covered a host of other issues.
Both candidates said they would try to roll back the 4 cents-a-gallon gasoline tax hike and opposed the Northern Pass project as currently proposed.
Havenstein said that despite allegations from Hemingway that he has flip-flopped on Medicaid expansion, “I have always opposed it and I remain opposed to it.” He said he would have vetoed the bill passed with GOP help by lawmakers and signed into law by Hassan. He said he would veto any attempt to extend it.
But he said that with the law on the books “we have got to talk about where we are going forward…I’m going to face into that problem earaly on and find a solution – a responsible solution.”
“Hemingway called Havenstein’s position “political double-speak.”
He said Havenstein gives different answers before different audiences “almost on a daily basis.”
“The program must be repealed. It has to be repealed,” Hemingway said.
Havenstein said it is “irresponsible” and unrealistic for Hemingway to say he would repeal Medicaid expansion.
Should the state implement its own Affordable Care Act exchange?
Havenstein said he has little confidence that the state would be able to control the costs.
Hemingway said he would “look at” the possible implementation of a a state exchange, but he said the state should ultimately “push back against Washington.”
Each candidate pushed his business tax plan – Havenstein for lowering the Business Profits Tax and Hemingway for eliminating it and the Business Enterprise Tax and instituting a 2 percent flat tax on businesses, which he said would “broaden the base.”
Havenstein said Hemingway’s plan to include governments in the tax base would raise property taxes. He called the overall Hemingway plan “a job killer.”
Hemingway said Havenstein’s “assertion that a 1 percent cut” in the BPT “is going to create 25,000 jobs is ludicrous.”
Hemingway dismissed Havenstein’s fund-raising prowess and his endorsements by most of the GOP establishment, including 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
He recalled Ovide Lamontagne’s upstart defeat of then-Rep. Bill Zeliff in the 1996 governor’s primary, saying, “New Hampshire voters care about the individual that’s running for office. They care about their experience and track record.”
Both candidates criticized Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.
Hemingway said Hassan s “has tried for a year and a half to be John Lynch…We all knew John Lynch and quite frankly, Governor Hassan is no John Lynch.”
Havenstein said that questions of “ethical competency” surround Hassan and large contributions she received from union PACs “imply that she’s buy-able.”