Can Republicans increase their ranks of governors? Four races to watch.

With only 11 races for governor this year, there’s no big sea change to anticipate. With Republicans hoping to add to the 29 states under their banner, the four races to watch are in Washington, New Hampshire, Montana, and North Carolina.

By , Staff writer

2. New Hampshire

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    Gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Maggie Hassan (l.) and Republican Ovide Lamontagne talk to each other during a break in their debate on Oct. 4 in Henniker, N.H.
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With popular Democratic Gov. John Lynch not seeking a fifth term in this swing state, the neck-and-neck race for governor may well be determined by the trickle-down effect of which presidential candidate can get more supporters to the polls.

The two main candidates are Democrat Maggie Hassan, an attorney and former state senator, and Republican Ovide Lamontagne, a business lawyer who ran for governor in 1996 and ran in the primary for US Senate in 2010.

Based on their no broad-based tax pledge or their similar stances supporting limited medical marijuana and the building of a gambling casino, you might have a hard time guessing which candidate for governor is from which party.

They’ve both even talked on the campaign trail about their experiences parenting a child with disabilities.

One clear dividing issue that Ms. Hassan and her supporters have been hammering on the television ads: she supports a woman’s right to choose an abortion and have access to affordable health-care screenings, while Mr. Lamontagne has supported the idea of outlawing abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Lamontagne emphasizes his experience in the business and nonprofit sectors in promising to keep spending low and budgets balanced, and supports right-to-work legislation. He says Hassan was leading the state Senate when many taxes and fees were increased.

In a recent forum, Hassan said she was proud of being part of the legislature when it did balance the budget. Although she says she would veto any income or sales tax, she opposes a constitutional amendment being put to voters in November that would ban a state income tax. She has called for a tuition freeze and a restoration of some of a recent 50 percent cut in funding to the state university system.

If the legislature remains controlled by Republicans, many of whom came in with the tea party wave in 2010, a win by Lamontagne would mean conservatives would “be able to get some things through they couldn’t in the past,” says Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Proposals on school choice are one possible example.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Governors Association says the organization is optimistic that Hassan can pull off a victory, especially given her endorsement from Governor Lynch, who had one of the highest approval ratings of governors anywhere in the country, and because Lamontagne has fully embraced the tea party legislature’s radical agenda to roll back women’s access to reproductive services and dismantle Medicare.

Different polls in October have shown each candidate with a 2 to 3 point lead, within the margin of error.

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