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By CYRUS MOULTON
Union Leader Correspondent
HOOKSETT — Former New York governor and Republican primary candidate George Pataki mixed the local and national political traditions in a visit to Robie’s Country Store in Hooksett Wednesday, praising Robie’s chocolate chip cookies as a campaign snack while also emphasizing traditions of small, local government and non-partisan governance.
“Elections are partisan, I want to be the Republican candidate, and the Republican nominee, and win the election on the Republican line,” Pataki said. “But governing is not. Governing is about solving problems and putting people before politics, and if I have the opportunity to lead, that’s what I will do.”
Pataki joined the already crowded Republican presidential nominee race in May, presenting himself as the three-term governor of New York who led the state through the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and launching a campaign with the slogan “People Over Politics.”
In meeting with voters at the historic general store, which is only opened about once a month to maintain its license and in hopes of remaining a turnkey operation for a future owner, Pataki emphasized moderate Republican stances in answering questions posed by locals.
He decried a gap between educational opportunities and training and local jobs, saying that the country needed to have “a lot more respect for the community college” system and trade jobs that lead to “a very good career.”
He also indicated support for education waivers for parents with kids in failing public schools, presenting it as a social-justice issue.
“We trap too many low-income kids, particularly low-income minority children, in schools in communities, largely urban schools, where teachers can’t teach and the schools can’t educate and we know that that’s the case,” Pataki said. “And yet we tell those poor parents we’re not going to give your kids a choice. They are going to have to go to this government school that can’t educate their kid. You’re putting those children behind the eight ball.”
Pataki also advocated tax reform, calling the tax code “74,600 pages of incomprehensible lawyer-written lobbyist-driven gobbledygook” and urging “we throw it all out” and devise a system that “functions for the people, not the special interests.”
Washington, in fact, came under frequent criticism. Pataki described it as “going to a foreign planet” and warned that as “banks were too big to fail, federal government is becoming too big to succeed.”
Yet Pataki also acknowledged that government had a role. Responding to a question about food safety, Pataki noted he was a farmer who depended on the Food and Drug Administration to ensure food safety, and he was in the process of certifying his farm to have free-range, antibiotic-free cattle.
But Pataki repeatedly emphasized that government was out-of-touch with regular citizens. He mentioned Obamacare as one of the “awful laws” and said it, Social Security and any other law Congress passes should be followed by legislators.
“If Congress passes a law that applies to the American people, it should apply to Congress and their staffs as well,” Pataki said.
Hooksett resident Tina Paquette, who said her cat is named after the governor, didn’t think that would work.
“That’s a hard sell,” Paquette said.
“Let them go back to the people and say ‘I think I should be exempt,’” Pataki responded, after remarking “poor cat” and wondering if the cat was “verbally slow.”
As for his rivals, Pataki tried to stay above the fray. He said he would be at the New Hampshire Union Leader’s Aug. 6 forum and said the “the rules are what the rules are” for Fox’s first prime-time debate criteria, where Pataki’s low national polling precludes him from participating.
“I would love to be there, but if I’m not, then I’ll keep going,” Pataki said when asked about whether the debate criteria was fair.