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From left are US Senate candidates Bob Smith, Scott Brown and Jim Rubens moments before the taping of CloseUp with Josh McElveen at WMUR studios in Manchester on Friday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

GOP US Senate candidates spar over votes, finances and Republican core issues at WMUR taping

MANCHESTER — The first meeting of the top three Republican U.S. Senate candidates generated a heated discussion Friday at a tapping of WMUR’s Close Up program, which airs Sunday at 10 a.m.

During the discussion, Scott Brown, the former U.S. senator from Massachusetts, said he would release eight years of his, his wife’s and his business’s state and federal tax returns and challenged incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen to do the same.

He noted on the same program two weeks ago that Shaheen said if Brown released his tax returns she would release hers.

“She can put her money where her mouth is,” Brown said.

While Brown focused on Shaheen, former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith and former state Sen. Jim Rubens focused on Brown, with Rubens attacking him for supporting President Obama 70 percent of time while he was Massachusetts’s senator and for supporting the Dodd-Frank financial reform package.

Smith accused Brown and his campaign of collusion with state GOP leadership on a “unity letter” to candidates in the race trying “to put me on the spot.”

Smith has so far refused to sign the letter that says he will support the eventual primary winner, saying it is premature.

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t sign it,” Smith said, “I said it was premature.”

He said the candidates need to have a debate on the issues and whether they all support the GOP platform.

Brown called the accusation “silly” and said the three had spent too much time “debating debates.”

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