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August 27. 2014 8:42PM

Rubens, Smith set sights on Brown in GOP Senate debate

Jim Rubens and Bob Smith took aim at Scott Brown during a U.S. Senate debate Wednesday, with each man casting himself as the solid Republican alternative to Brown.

The two accused Brown of having a less-than-stellar record on the Second Amendment, during a debate on “New Hampshire Today” with Jack Heath on WGIR-AM radio.

Smith said Brown opposed reciprocity for concealed-carry permits and supported a ban on assault weapons.

“That’s hardly pro-gun,” said Smith, who this week won the endorsement of the Gun Owners of America.

Brown, a gun owner, defended his record and said he had an A-minus average rating by the National Rifle Association. He said he is not proposing any new gun legislation.

Rubens joined Smith in criticizing Brown, who is considered the front-runner in the race for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate.

“What’s really disturbing about this, Mr. Brown, your position changes constantly,” Rubens said. “You have claimed you have an A minus. You have a C rating from NRA.”

“With all due respect,” Brown responded, “I have an A minus.”

Global warming stances

Rubens also accused Brown of shifting his stance on repeal of the Affordable Care Act — a law opposed by all three — and global warming.

Rubens said he believes climate change is caused by man.

John DiStaso, a debate panelist from NH Journal, pressed Brown to clarify his position based on comments he made when he was running for reelection in Massachusetts against Democrat Elizabeth Warren. And the Senate Republican hopefuls were asked in a debate in Exeter last Saturday whether they thought man-made climate change was scientifically proven — to which Brown said “no.”

“What I said back in 2012 is exactly how I feel now,” Brown said. “It’s a combination approach. To answer a yes or no question was very specific. They asked whether it was solely man-made. I said ‘no,’ it’s not, because I believe it’s a combination of man-made and natural.”Brown said national leaders must strike a careful balance to ensure businesses can grow, thrive and compete on a global basis.

All three Republicans said they support approval of the Keystone XL pipeline as one measure to broaden domestic energy.Smith said he does not believe there is evidence to support a claim that climate change is man-made.With the state primary on Sept. 9, Smith and Rubens portrayed the race as wide open. Rubens cited a poll showing a large number of voters who remain undecided.

Smith said it was wrong for the state and national GOP to portray the Senate race as a match between Brown and Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen.

“The Washington establishment has clearly picked Scott Brown,” Rubens added.

Who’s more Republican?

Smith, a former U.S. senator, said Brown voted more with Democrats than he did with Republicans when he served in the U.S. Senate.

Jack Heath, the debate moderator, noted that Smith briefly left the GOP and once wrote a letter in support of Democrat John Kerry.

Smith called that “old news.”

“It was a dumb, stupid thing that I did in anger because President (George W.) Bush promised to support me, and he didn’t do it. I regret having done it,” he said.

The reason why he left the GOP, he added, was because of Republicans who ignored the party platform and principles and voted with Democrats.

Brown said he was the most bipartisan senator in the U.S. Senate when he served, and that Shaheen has voted 99 percent of the time with President Obama.

As he has done in past debates when his Republican credentials are questioned, Brown responded that he was the only candidate of the three who is a lifelong Republican.

dtuohy@unionleader.com


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