LACONIA — Steve Marchand, the former Portsmouth mayor who ran for governor two years ago, said he’s now much better prepared to be New Hampshire’s top executive.
In the 2016 Democratic primary for governor, Marchand received 25 percent of the vote and came in second to Colin Van Ostern, who went on to lose to Chris Sununu.
“I started with a base of about 20,000 voters from last time,” he said in an interview Tuesday at The Laconia Daily Sun. “We’ve done 280 meet-and-greet events. We’ve done the work and have gotten a lot smarter by learning along the way.
“So it makes the policies more complete, more refined, more doable and people are responding to that. I feel like I’m much better prepared to be governor because of the way that we’ve run this time.”
Marchand, 44, who has a master’s degree in public administration, has detailed policy statements on his website about the economy, addiction and recovery, gender identity and expression, energy and the environment, family, guns and immigration.
His mission statement and his reason for running is “to make New Hampshire the best state in America to start a family, and start a business.”
With a low birth rate, a high median age and the biggest drop in high school student population of any state over the last decade, New Hampshire faces major demographic challenges. Companies say the state lacks enough workers to allow for economic expansion. Too few college graduates stay in New Hampshire.
Marchand said the state needs to invest in education, infrastructure and social services to begin to make the generational changes that can reverse some of those negative trends.
He see connections between some of the major issues facing the state.
For example, good schools can attract new companies to come to New Hampshire.
“If you’ve got great pre-K-through-12-public schools in the community, you’re going to win a lot of tie-breakers. And if you don’t, you throw all the money you want at everything else and you won’t get there,” he said.
The state also needs to find a way to make college tuition less expensive, he said.
As a young man, Marchand, who grew up in a blue-collar family, found it too expensive to attend a university in New Hampshire, so he went to Syracuse University.
“Eventually I came home, but a lot of my friends who were in a similar rhythm did not come home,” he said.
Marchand said he has a plan that would allow people to attend college without incurring debt. He advocates a pilot program for students wishing to prepare for high-demand fields such as elementary education, nursing and computer science.
“We would provide a challenge grant for half the cost of in-state tuition and then the other half would be paid for by private-sector entities that are begging for talent and are willing to pay up front to get their hands on young talent before they have a chance to go to North Carolina, or Boston or something,” he said.
“It’s fundable. It’s not big money. It’s targeted money in the places where we get significant outcome for the investment.”
He said the program would cost the state about $4 million in its first year. Another $8 million could boost pre-K through-12th-grade education.
Marchand also said he would bring more resources to bear on dealing with the problems of addiction.
He would reverse a cut to the business profits tax signed into law by Sununu.
Marchand said his goal would be to make “generational investments” into the state that would set the stage for business growth.
“I favor commuter rail,” he said. “I look at it as a straw to stick into the juicy orange that is the greater Boston economy. That’s where so much of the talent from around the country and around the world convenes.”
On other issues, Marchand favors:
A 48-hour waiting period for gun purchases as a way to reduce suicide. Most gun deaths are from suicide and those states with such a waiting period see a significant reduction in suicides. He also favors universal background checks and a “red-flag law.” Such laws permit police or family members to petition a court to order the temporary removal of firearms from people who may present a danger to others or themselves.
Regarding immigration as “part of the solution to New Hampshire’s challenges, not part of the problem,” he supports passage of a law allowing state agencies and municipal governments to submit to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement request to detain an individual only if there is a serious conviction involved.
Universal health care, which Marchand said would attract talent, investment and entrepreneurship. “The No. 1 policy that is slowing down entrepreneurship is the way we do health care, because it’s hard to start a business and it’s even harder when you’re not sure how you’re going to get your health insurance if you leave a business to start a business.”
A goal of New Hampshire getting half its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030.
Codifying the right to abortion in state law as well as public funding for abortion services.