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August 24. 2012 1:30AM

Sheriff candidate apologizes for his abortion comments

GOFFSTOWN — A candidate for Hillsborough County Sheriff is retracting statements he made about using deadly force on doctors who perform late-term abortions.

Frank Szabo, who is running in the Republican primary against incumbent James Hardy, said earlier this week that he would “absolutely” not rule out using deadly force to stop an abortion, and that he would “use the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office to arrest abortion doctors for murdering innocent life.”

“I want to be clear to the people of New Hampshire that I made several comments about the use of deadly force against abortion doctors that I regret, that I apologize for and that I fully retract,” Szabo said in a statement Thursday.

“Clearly, I feel very strongly about life beginning at conception, and that will not change,” he added.

In a telephone interview, Szabo said he misunderstood the question that was being asked and was not prepared for the firestorm his comments caused.

“It just never occurred to me that someone would ask if I would shoot a doctor,” he said.

Several comments on his campaign’s Facebook page called for Szabo to drop out of the election, with one post accusing him of being “a menace to society.”

“I don’t blame people for being upset,” Szabo said. “It wasn’t my intention, but what I said sounded insane to some people.”

Szabo is on the Republican ballot against Hardy, who has been sheriff since 2002. Hardy has been in law enforcement in various positions for 30 years. Hardy could not be reached for comment.

Szabo, who has no law enforcement experience, is focusing on the rights of citizens and their property, and said he will bring back a constitutional element to the position.

“A county sheriff is not doing his duty if he simply transports prisoners, guards the courthouses or helps other law enforcement agencies with their arrest warrants — this is very basic-level work that should be done at a minimum,” he said. “Unfortunately, most elected sheriffs ignore their most important duty, which is to serve their constituents by protecting their natural rights, including their rights to life, liberty and property.”

If elected, Szabo said he will immediately notify all federal agencies to inform representatives they may not come into the county unless it’s through the sheriff’s office.

“The federal government was never intended to have direct actions over the citizenry,” he said, and added that agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service engage in activities that are both unlawful and unconstitutional.

Szabo’s Democratic opponent Bill Barry said Szabo’s abortion comments were uncalled for.

“I just think it’s unfair for someone to say that he’ll arrest someone for doing something that’s legal,” he said, and added that the office is not a platform for social issues.

“The good thing about running for sheriff is that it’s not about social issues, it’s about law,” said Barry.

Barry said his 27-year record in law enforcement, most recently as a part-time officer in Auburn, will prepare him for the job.

“I think you definitely need law enforcement experience,” he said. “You’re dealing with criminals, you need to know everything about it.”

Barry said one of his focuses will be on children and the elderly.

“They are two of the most vulnerable groups in our society,” he said.

Szabo apologized for the furor over his comments.

“I’m truly sorry for all the vitriol that was expressed on my account,” he said, but added that the silver lining may be that people pay more attention to the election.

“That might have made it worth it,” he said.

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Kathy Remillard may be reached at kremillard@newstote.com.


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