One of the nation’s first credit union volunteers to make a 2012 run for a major state office, Ovide Lamontagne, former chairman of the $726 million St. Mary’s Bank, Manchester, N.H., has some advice for CU leaders.
More work needs to be done on the industry’s education and advocacy message, based in part on what was uttered during the presidential primary debates last month.
“All you have to do is look at what Newt Gingrich said about credit unions and GSEs,” explained Lamontagne.
The problem, said Lamontagne, is the false comparison Gingrich made during an Iowa debate appearance suggesting “credit unions and electricity cooperatives” as GSEs do good work just like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
For starters, CUs are not GSEs, stressed Lamontagne.
The former House speaker was later pummeled by rivals for his consulting work and coziness with the enterprises and thus, said Lamontagne, the GSE label was wrongly attached to CUs.
“I think we have some work to do with the candidates,” said Lamontagne, who in September threw his hat into the gubernatorial ring to succeed Democrat Gov. John Lynch, who is not seeking another term.
Lamontagne, who hails from a well-known volunteer family, including his father who also was chairman of the Manchester CU, has filed papers to run in the September GOP primary. So far there is only one other Republican contender with the winner facing the Democrat, former state Sen. Maggie Hassan of Exeter in the November election.
Lamontagne, a Manchester lawyer who stepped down as St. Mary’s chairman in 2010, describes himself as a strong CU advocate, recalling when his parents helped him open his first share draft account.
In his bid for the governor’s chair, Lamontagne will try to erase a defeat in 2010 when he lost a close U.S. Senate race to Kelly Ayotte (R.-N.H.).
Lamontagne said he was unsure whether he had peer CU chairmen across the U.S. but is eager to wear the CU mantle in the governor’s contest.
Lamontagne noted that in his unsuccessful 2010 race he did receive CUNA PAC endorsements and this go-round he looks for support from CUs, 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 that 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.