GOP 1st Congressional District candidates square off in debateBy RYAN LESSARD
Union Leader Correspondent
July 11. 2018 11:26PM
DERRY — Republican candidates for the state’s 1st Congressional District squared off Wednesday night at Pinkerton Academy in their first debate.
Two-time Republican gubernatorial nominee Ovide Lamontagne moderated the event, which featured state Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford, former South Hampton police chief Eddie Edwards and Hampton Falls businessman Bruce Crochetiere.
The candidates did not differ significantly on most of the issues, but Sanborn and Edwards had a few heated exchanges.
In the closing remarks, Edwards finished the debate by saying it wasn’t worth the risk to nominate someone with a “cloud” over their campaign.
“Sen. Sanborn has two allegations right now that he needs to answer to,” Edwards said “This is the second allegation that we’ve heard of sexual misconduct and we need an answer now, not 60 days from now.”
Sanborn has called the allegations a “witch hunt” on the part of his political enemies. (Related story, Page A1.)
Earlier in the debate, Sanborn fired the first shots at Edwards, after the former chief of the New Hampshire Division of Liquor Enforcement claimed he was the only one on stage to try to reduce the size of a state agency when he declined to hire any of the 12 employees he had approved in the budget.
“I think we need a little bit of a clarification,” Sanborn said. “As chief of the Liquor Enforcement Agency, you increased the budget by 83 percent.”
“I’m not sure what Sen. Sanborn is referring to. Because last time I checked, as chief of Liquor Enforcement, I don’t approve the budget,” Edwards said in reply. He added that as state senator, Sanborn was more responsible for the spending of a state agency than he was.
While all three agreed on the need to reduce taxes and regulations on businesses in order to bolster the economy and create jobs, they differed in some of their specific approaches.
Both Edwards and Sanborn agreed that the federal Department of Education was the agency they would eliminate if they had to choose one. Crochetiere picked the “import export department.”
“I think it’s very wasteful. It’s about $4 billion we could save a year,” Crochetiere said.
Crochetiere also focused on repealing the “Wayfair tax,” referring to the recent Supreme Court ruling that opens up requirements on local businesses to collect out-of-state sales tax for online sales.
When asked about Congress’ role in tackling the opioid epidemic, Edwards said he’s been working on this issue during his whole law enforcement career.
“My father was a drug addict, and a drug dealer. So was my brother,” Edwards said.
He said Congress’s job is to stop the flow of drugs into the country. But it should also hold big pharmaceutical companies responsible for their role in starting the epidemic with prescription opioids, he said. That should include making pharmaceutical companies pay for part of the efforts.
Sanborn said the problem won’t be solved just by throwing money at it, but Congress should make sure New Hampshire gets a significant share of the federal resources — commensurate to our addict population. He also said elected officials should take the lead from people on the front lines like Eric Spofford, the CEO of Granite Recovery Centers.
“We need to find the experts, see what actually works, invest and see what happens,” Sanborn said.
Crochetiere said it’s an addiction problem, not just an opioid problem. He thinks the resources should be put in middle schools to help with prevention and mental health education.
The event was organized by the Rockingham County Republican Committee. Two candidates for Rockingham County Sheriff, Chuck Massahos and Barry Newcomb, were present for the event.