The former chairman of the $726 million St. Mary’s Bank and a candidate for New Hampshire governor in a September GOP primary has some advice for credit union leaders: better improve the education and advocacy message.
Ovide Lamontagne, a Manchester lawyer who stepped down as St. Mary’s chairman in 2010 and describes himself as “born and weaned” on CUs, said evidence of CU public awareness problems arose in one of those Iowa presidential primary debates in which CUs were compared to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“When we heard Gingrich describe credit unions in the same class with Freddie and Fannie as government-sponsored enterprises that do good work, I think we have a problem,” observed Lamontagne.
Gingrich was later attacked by his rivals for his Fannie Mae consulting work but the “GSE label was wrongly attached” to CUs, insisted Lamontagne, who comes from a volunteer family associated with the CU. His father also was chairman of St. Mary’s, the nation’s oldest credit union.
Lamontagne, who announced his candidacy last September after losing a U.S. Senate bid in 2010 to U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R.-N.H.), is believed to be among the first present or past CU volunteer to seek a top job in a state race.
“Not sure there is anybody else around the country doing the same,” said Lamontagne, noting that in his unsuccessful 2010 race he did receive CUNA PAC endorsements and this go-round he looks for support from credit unions, perhaps through the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Credit Union League.
“I look forward to renewing my friendship with former colleagues,” Lamontagne told Credit Union Times.
The 53-year-old Lamontagne, frequently identified as a Tea Party favorite, said he vigorously supports member business lending for CUs as a way for small business to “build capital and grow.” He said he also strongly supports reining in government “which has run amok” hurting job creation by excessive regulation.
He was appointed to the St. Mary’s board in 2000 to fill an unexpired director term. He is a partner at Devine, Millimet & Branch of Manchester. Lamontagne who declined to make an endorsement in Tuesday’s presidential primary, said this year he witnessed “less grassroots activity” for the candidates in New Hampshire most likely because all the “attention has been focused on the debates.”
He said New Hampshire voters have a long time to make up their mind. Moreover, rather than being fixated on the primary, “many simply decided they would rather spend their time skiing up north,” quipped Lamontagne.