September 08. 2018 11:02PM

Election Guide to Republicans for 1st CD: Fights over character, not policy mark the race

New Hampshire Union Leader

Republican hopefuls for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District, from left, Eddie Edwards, Michael Callis, Andy Martin, Jeffory Denaro and Andy Sanborn participate in a debate Thursday at St. Anselm College. (Elise Amendola/AP/Pool)






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Personal character rather than policy plans have dominated the Republican primary in the 1st Congressional District where the two main rivals have questioned whether their opponent is morally fit to serve.

State Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, and former police chief Eddie Edwards of Dover both said they support the Trump administration policies on immigration, tax cuts, national security and against Obamacare while maintaining they are both supporters of the Second Amendment and opponents of legal abortion.

Sanborn seeks to go from libertarian-minded political maverick to congressman while Edwards would make history Tuesday if he became the first African-American to win the nomination for Congress in this district.

But this race has been all about personal failings each has raised about the other.

Sanborn has been dogged throughout this primary race by Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald's investigation into comments Sanborn called a "crass joke" he made to a male intern in front of his wife, a state representative, a Senate aide and within earshot of the Senate's legal counsel.

A lengthy investigation concluded Sanborn committed no criminal wrongdoing and there was not credible evidence to support allegations that Jay Flanders, Senate chief of staff at the time, paid the intern cash in order to keep him quiet about the controversy.

Sanborn has had to endure months of released transcripts that contained the statements of many Senate officials, including colleagues who said he had made frequent comments of a sexual nature to subordinate staff.

In response, Sanborn said this controversy has been promoted by the "political class" that has not been fond of him, who has not always voted in lockstep with the Republican legislative leadership.

Edwards has said Sanborn has been guilty of "serial predatory behavior," and says that is why he refuses to support Sanborn should he win Tuesday's primary.

Throughout the race, Sanborn has said Edwards is a phony conservative who sounds like a true believer but has had liberal associations.

Sanborn refers to a nonprofit board on which Edwards served gave grants to organizations that supported the President Obama's national health care mandate and favored giving amnesty to illegal immigrants.

A late TV ad from Sanborn lampooned his foe as "Amnesty Edwards," and an attack mail said Edwards was a foe of gun owners for getting an "F" grade from the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition.

Edwards said he publicly broke with that nonprofit over those grants and got an "A" rating from the Gun Owners of New Hampshire, a rival pro-Second Amendment group.

Another dispute has been over the $160,000 settlement Edwards reached with the New Hampshire Liquor Commission to dismiss a complaint of racial discrimination he brought against the agency.

Soon after becoming liquor enforcement chief in late 2006, Edwards said, he endured numerous comments about his race by unidentified administrators intended to get him to behave and drop complaints about his salary being set lower than his predecessor's.

Edwards defended working for nearly six years in the stress-filled environment at the liquor commission, saying he learned "never to quit" from growing up in a household in which his father repeatedly abused his mother.

Sanborn said the episode reveals a dysfunctional "bureaucrat" who can't stand the heat.

Edwards served as a local police chief in several departments, is a U.S. Navy veteran who worked for six months as an aide to former 1st District U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta.

Sanborn owns The Draft sports bar and grill in downtown Concord.

Prominent Republicans have taken sides in this one, with former presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani and Rick Santorum backing Edwards while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is with Sanborn.

Sanborn has dominated the airwaves, using more than $500,000 of his own money on advertising to overwhelm Edwards who has raised more money than Sanborn from outside donations.

Also in the race

Michael Callis, a Nashville, Tenn. native, lives in Conway after graduating Manchester High School in 1972. Callis said he's been a stone craft artist for the past 40 years .

Callis said he'd work to seek bipartisanship and knows about compromise having grown up with 10 brothers and sisters.

Jeffory Denaro of Auburn is a plumbing contractor without elective office experience who said he would support a Red Flag law that would allow a judge to take guns away from someone found to be dangerous to himself or others.

Andy Martin, 72, is a Middletown, Conn. native who lives in Manchester and has run for federal office several times before.

A lawyer, Martin said he's worked as a private consultant in many places all over the world.

"I could make a significant contribution to both supporting President Trump's agenda and trying to bring warring parties and factions in Congress together," Martin said.