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November 02. 2012 11:37PM

Kuster, Bass fight for center


Congressional candidate Ann McLane Kuster faces incumbent U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass in a debate Friday night at St. Anselm College. (Simon Rios)

U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass goes head to head with Democratic opponent Ann McLane Kuster during a debate at St. Anselm College Friday night. (Simon Rios)
The Democratic and Republican candidates for Congress in New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District jousted for position in the center of the political spectrum in a debate that stressed issues over personalities Friday night.

In a series of generally polite exchanges, U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass (R-Peterborough) and his Democratic opponent, Annie Kuster, each tempered their support for some of their respective party's positions during a one-hour debate sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader and WMUR at St. Anselm College.

The biggest clash of the debate came over the Obama administration's handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Libya in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Bass accused the President of trying to obstruct understanding of the facts of what happened.

"There will be a full investigation of this incident, and I regret the fact that the truth is probably going to be punted until after next Tuesday," Bass said. "The Obama administration knew what was going on, they knew that it was a terrorist attack. They did not supply the ambassador that he needed and they tried to cover it up ... we will find out the extent to which it happened."

Kuster said that after reading an official timeline of events released by the CIA this week, there have been false accusations floated.

"It is very obvious there was no stand down order. I think this has been politicized in the presidential race, certain media outlets mentioning that help was not sent immediately," she said. "It's clear from the timeline that everything that was possible was done to protect these people."

Kuster said the murders will result in a policy change that will mean increased security at U.S. embassies abroad.

Repeatedly, the candidates tried to moderate their own views while trying to tie the other candidate to the more hardline positions of their parties.

It happened while discussing the federal role in recovering from natural disasters.

Bass moved toward a more moderate position and Kustler tried to tie him to conservative statements attributed to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

"I believe that the nation needs a climate change plan." Bass said.

Kustler pushed back.

"What worries me is when Governor Romney makes statements about how these events should be state responsibility," Kustler said.

Bass attacked Kuster for supporting candidates who have backed a state income tax.

" "It is relevant when you are running against an individual who has no record in office - the only public policy issue that she has been very well know for is her advocacy for a statewide income tax.," Bass said.

"I do not support the statewide income tax here in New Hampshire, period," Kuster said.

Both candidates spent much of the debate trying to paint themselves as moderate.

"When I agree with my party, I vote with them, but when I disagree, I don't," Bass said. "Kuster responded that she, too, is willing to break ranks with other members of her party.

"I join a number or Republicans in my opposition to the war in Afghanistan and wanting to get the troops home. I did not support the (President Obama's) surge in troops," Kuster said. "I believe in issues of frugality, less government interference in people's live and the unintended consequences, particularly on small business of overburdensome government regulation."

For stories about past debates, go to unionleader.com/debate

wsmith@unionleader.com

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