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July 30. 2014 7:31PM

Garcia, Lambert clash during GOP District 2 congressional debate

MANCHESTER — Republicans vying to face U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster in November engaged in a scrappy Second Congressional District debate Wednesday, with accusations flying nearly from the start between two of the three candidates.

State Rep. Marilinda Garcia of Salem and former state Sen. Gary Lambert of Nashua clashed when discussing their votes in the Legislature.

Lambert criticized Garcia for being absent when the House voted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“I don’t know where she was, whether or not she was worried about her congressional campaign or what, or in D.C. hobnobbing with special interest groups,” Lambert said. “But there was a time when we could have prevented Obamacare from coming to New Hampshire through Medicaid expansion and, quite frankly, Representative Garcia was more concerned about her political career, I think.”

Garcia fired back during the hourlong debate on Jack Heath’s show on WGIR-AM radio.

“There are many votes during your one term — I served four terms, you served one term in the state senate — I would have loved to see you absent for,” Garcia said. “You didn’t support local control. You didn’t allow for legislative authorization of federal education standards. You didn’t support purchasing health insurance from out-of-state companies. You supported RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative). You didn’t support our repeal on that.”

Former state Rep. Jim Lawrence of Hudson encouraged his opponents to rise above the sniping.

“This campaign should be about the issues,” he said. “It’s not who we’re getting our contributions from. This is the kind of thing that turns people off from politics. This type of dialogue hurts us all. We need to focus on the issues and talk about the real issues, like foreign policy, like health care options, like keeping our government accountable for veterans and the IRS.”

Funding questions

Lambert and Garcia also accused each other of running afoul of campaign finance law in accepting certain contributions. Each said their campaign did nothing wrong.

Lambert also criticized Garcia for raising only 13 percent of campaign contributions from the Second District, based on her recent finance report, while he says he raised more than 80 percent from New Hampshire.

Garcia responded that her campaign finances showed she is the most viable candidate to face off against Kuster, a first-term Democrat.

Lawrence, who entered the race after Garcia and Lambert, said his donations were starting to pick up as he campaigned around the district. He reiterated his call Wednesday for the three to debate in the North Country.

“I know that I’m not the Washington, D.C., pick in this race,” Lawrence said. “I’m not the Republican establishment pick in this race. But I’m fighting very hard to establish that I am the conservative, grassroots candidate in this race.”

The three Republicans criticized President Obama and said he was trying to overstep his executive authority. They called for greater border security and criticized policies that would grant amnesty to immigrants who entered the country illegally.

Garcia and Lambert said they oppose the Northern Pass project as currently proposed, but indicated a willingness to support it if the power lines were buried underground. Lawrence said he is solidly opposed to it.

All three spoke of the need to repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Lawrence said he has heard stories about lost coverage and higher premiums from people statewide.

“President Barack Obama’s policies, being supported by Representative Kuster, are destroying this country,” Lawrence said. “They’re destroying our way of life, and I’m fearful for the future of our children.”

dtuohy@unionleader.com


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