New Hampshire Republican Candidate Walt Havenstein on the Record - NECN
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New Hampshire Republican Candidate Walt Havenstein on the Record

Walt Havenstein said his son moving away from the Granite State for a better job inspired his run for office



    The recent retiree tells NECN about what inspired him to run for office for the first time. (Published Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014)

    Before entering the race for governor of New Hampshire, Walt Havenstein was comfortably retired. So what inspired him not only to run for office but also to run for the state's highest office?

    This is not some "culmination" of a political career. At 65, it's actually the beginning because 12 months ago his focus may have been more on golf than politics.

    "I'd have said 'Help me read this putt.' It was pretty far from my mind," he said.

    On the forefront of his mind was his retirement with his wife, Judy.

    "We were doing the things we wanted to do. We were traveling," he said. "I don't think I was terribly restless. Judy would say 'Walt, you've only failed at one thing in life and that's retirement.'"

    He had succeeded at everything else. His career began as a Marine officer, and afterward as an executive at companies such as New Hampshire-based BAE Systems, one of the world's biggest defense contractors and one of the state's largest private employers. But one thing jogged him out of his contented retirement: his son moving from New Hampshire for a better job in Texas, sparking a months of conversation that ended with a decision.

    "There was a leadership component or a vacuum that I saw and thought I could help fill," he said. "I started back in April and it was the day after, I think, a UNH/WMUR poll that said Walt Havenstein's name recognition was less than 7 percent. Well, Judy then asked me 'Who are the 7 percent?'"

    Gradually, he changed that, and he's also closed the gap on Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan, going from a double-digit under-dog to being within the margin of error in some recent polls

    "You know, we're tied going into the last week, that's exactly where we want to be," Havenstein said.

    The ex-Marine, ex-CEO and ex-retiree is more of a moderate Republican, who is pro-business but also pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. But perhaps what he's most for is education.

    "Fifty percent of our in-state students who graduate from UNH leave the state to got to work. Fifty percent of them. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me," he said.

    At BAE, Havenstein went to the University of New Hampshire and did something about it.

    "Within two years, we were interning more and within three years, we were hiring more, and by the time I left Nashua, BAE Systems was getting more engineers and technical folks from UNH than any other school," he said.

    That won't get his son to move back.

    "He's going to come up for the election," Havenstein added.

    But he hopes examples like that will sway voters next week.

    Some A-list Republicans who just happened to be passing through the Granite State have lent a campaigning hand to Havenstein. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was there in early October and Sen. John McCain joined him on the trail just this past weekend. 

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