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Week of NH debates kicks off

With contested state primary elections set for one week from today, a series of televised debates starting tonight on WMUR-TV should help further inform voters about the candidates and where they stand on issues.

The Granite State Debates, co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader and WMUR-TV, feature Republican candidates for U.S. Congress in both districts, as well as U.S. Senate and governor. Democrats hold all four seats; the incumbents have little or no primary competition.

Each hour-long debate begins at 7 p.m. Tonight’s features 1st District candidates Frank Guinta of Manchester, who formerly held the seat; Dan Innis, a former University of New Hampshire business school dean and Portsmouth businessman; and Brendan Kelly, a former Seabrook selectman who switched from the Libertarian Party to become a Republican.

Questioners include WMUR’s James Pindell, the Union Leader’s Dan Tuohy, and Josh Rogers from NH Public Radio. The winner of the Sept. 9 primary will face U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in November.

On Wednesday night, 2nd District candidates Gary Lambert, Marilinda Garcia, and Jim Lawrence face questions from Tuohy, Pindell, and the Concord Monitor’s Kathleen Ronayne. Lambert, of Nashua, is a former state senator. Garcia, of Salem, is a current member of the New Hampshire House. Lawrence is a former Hudson state representative. The winner will meet incumbent Democrat Rep. Anne Kuster.

Thursday night’s debate features three Republicans vying for a chance to face incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in a race seen as pivotal for Republican attempts nationally to swing the Senate to GOP control.

Two of the three contestants are themselves former U.S. senators. Bob Smith of Tuftonboro served two terms from New Hampshire before being defeated and relocating to Florida. He recently returned to try again. Scott Brown moved to Rye from Massachusetts, where he surprised pundits by winning the seat long held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Brown was in turn defeated by Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

The third candidate is former state Sen. Jim Rubens of Hanover.

Questioners for the Thursday debate are Mike Cousineau from the Union Leader, along with Pindell and Rogers.

Each night there will also be two questions from members of a studio audience gathered at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College.

On Friday night, GOP gubernatorial hopefuls Walt Havenstein of Alton and Andrew Hemingway of Bristol square off. Havenstein is the former head of BAE Systems in Nashua. Hemingway ran Newt Gingrich’s Presidential primary campaign in New Hampshire in 2012.

Questioners for the Friday debate are Tim Buckland from the Union Leader, Edith Tucker from the Salmon Press, and Pindell.


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