Handshake refusal caps off contentious 2nd District debate
MANCHESTER — The tension between two of three Republican contenders vying for the 2nd Congressional District seat was the focus of Wednesday night's Granite State Debate. And the discord spilled over to after the debate, when state Rep. Marilinda Garcia of Salem refused to shake hands with former state Sen. Gary Lambert of Nashua.
The debate aired the night that a new attack ad from Lambert's campaign labeled Garcia as a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
"So I saw his most recent ad today, saying such ludicrous things that I support Obamacare, I just simply told him, ‘I cannot shake your hand at this time,'" Garcia said.
"It was unfortunate," Lambert said. "I was actually shocked. I am running an issues-based campaign."
During the debate between Garcia, Lambert, and former state Rep. Jim Lawrence of Hudson -- who are vying to face Democratic incumbent Anne McLane Kuster in the November election -- Garcia blasted Lambert's ad.
"As Mr. Lambert ought to know since we've been on the campaign trail ... I've always spoken out against the impacts of Obamacare," Garcia said. "Overall, his ads he's been putting out ... have been called out as blatant lies."
Lambert, meanwhile, said Garcia was absent on a key vote in the New Hampshire House to expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
"Representative Garcia wasn't there. She wasn't there to vote to stop Obamacare in New Hampshire," Lambert said.
"It's just the usual politics as usual that nobody likes," Garcia responded.
Lawrence said he is concerned that the campaign has denigrated into attack ads between Lambert and Garcia.
"This is the kind of thing that makes people sick and tired of the political process," Lawrence said.
After Garcia and Lambert said they would keep some portions of Obamacare, including the coverage of pre-existing conditions, Lawrence said he would scrap the entire law.
"I would be in favor of repealing Obamacare," Lawrence said. "What we had in place before was better."
Wednesday's was the second of four debates cosponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader and WMUR and featuring Republican primary contenders for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and governor. Reporter Dan Tuohy represented the Union Leader on the debate panel.
The back-and-forth continued later in the debate when Garcia was asked about Lambert's accusation that she supported amnesty for illegal immigrants.
"I've always stated I'm opposed to amnesty," Garcia said. "Those ads are distortions and inaccuracies. As the Union Leader and Nashua Telegraph say ... garbage."
Lambert said Garcia has supported "a path to citizenship," which he said "is amnesty in my book."
"Mr. Lambert's book is entirely fiction. A path to citizenship is just a turn of phrase," she said. "My mother walked the path of citizenship. She immigrated to this country."
Lawrence said he does not support amnesty and called it "ridiculous" to focus on anything else before "securing the border."
After the debate, Lawrence said Garcia, who referred to her opponents' position about her supporting a pathway to citizenship as "ignorant," is "being a little naive about what needs to be done."
The threat of ISIS
Each criticized Obama for how he is handling the situation with the terrorist organization ISIS, which has beheaded two journalists in reaction to U.S. airstrikes against the group in Iraq.
"A first-grade cadet would have a better strategy than President Obama on how to deal with ISIS," Lawrence said.
"We should never tell the world how far we're not willing to go," Garcia said.
Each expressed concern about what they called a militarization of police forces in light of riots in Ferguson, Mo., following the shooting of a black teenager, Michael Brown, by a police officer. They pointed to police in Ferguson wearing camouflage and riot gear while responding to people demonstrating.
"I am concerned about the militarization of police forces in the nation," Lambert said. "I would like to see them assume more of a peace role. I was dismayed by what I saw in Ferguson ... people dressed the way I was in Iraq."
"We also have to worry about terrorists," Garcia said, specifically mentioning the 9/11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombing. "But I think it is true that the over-militarization of police departments is a concern."
Lawrence, who said he is the "son of a cop," said he draws a distinction between terrorism and American citizens exercising their right to free speech and peaceful demonstration.
"People marching on the streets of the United States are not terrorists," he said. "I don't believe the police forces of the United States should be treating private citizens (like terrorists)."
Garcia and Lawrence each said they would be open to discussing impeachment proceedings against Obama, saying he had overreached his executive authority. Lambert, though, likened the move to a political stunt, saying it would go "nowhere" because the U.S. Senate, controlled by Democrats, likely would not convict.
"I'm not the kind of guy who would go down there to do something that wouldn't work," Lambert said.
During a lightning round, Lambert said he "isn't sure" why Garcia was labeled a rising star, a label she referred to as "cute" but acknowledged that she was grateful to have.
"I'm not the anointed candidate. I'm not the chosen candidate," Lambert said. "I'm just a guy who served in the Marine Corps."
Each said shutting down the government, which happened last year when House Republicans refused to adopt a routine spending bill without concessions from Democrats and Obama on Obamacare, could be used as a tool to force Congress to balance the federal budget.
"Everything is on the table," Lambert said.
"Shutting down the government is never the goal," Garcia said. "Our country is on the path to insolvency. We have to be serious about reducing (debt)."
"I don't think you take anything off the table," Lawrence said. "I do think we need to take a hard line now, cut taxes and cut spending. So yes, it is a tool in the arsenal."