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Annie Kuster looking forward to 'civil' debate of issues

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 12. 2018 11:02PM

CONCORD — Democratic Congresswoman Annie Kuster congratulated Republican state Rep. Steve Negron on his 2nd District win in a hard-fought GOP primary and pledged to avoid negative attacks on her opponent in the weeks leading up to the general election.

“I’m calling on representative Negron to commit to a civil debate focused on the issues and avoiding the name calling and nasty divisive rhetoric that threatens public engagement in our democracy,” she said as she greeted supporters at a Tuesday morning event in downtown Concord.

Negron responded in kind, pledging to stay focused on the issues, even though both candidates acknowledge they can’t control the tone of campaigns by third-party groups.

“I couldn’t agree with her more,” said Negron in a telephone interview, just minutes after he was declared the winner in the tight three-way race.

“We are going to win or lose on the merits of our campaign and the merits of the platform we bring. We can show you can have healthy debate without having to lower yourself to mudslinging because I see no point in that. It’s not how I was raised and it’s not what I stand for. If we are going to win the election, it’s going to be based on how we can articulate our message.”

Negron, a retired Air Force veteran, claimed victory shortly after midnight when Dr. Stewart Levenson of Hopkinton conceded the contest. Negron won with just 26 percent of the vote in a seven-way race and ended the night just 308 votes ahead of Levenson, with nearly 43,000 votes cast across the district. Former Navy nurse Lynn Blankenbeker of Concord finished with 23 percent of the vote.

Levenson said he was considering whether to seek a recount by Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s office. Under state law, Levenson can request one if the losing candidate is within 1.5 percent of the winner. He has until Friday at 5 p.m. to make a request.

“The people running for this nomination were all great candidates, each with their own unique skills,” Negron said. “I told Stewart last night I cannot do this alone. I need his help, Lynn’s help, and I got that assurance from them both.”

Kuster said she was encouraged by the record turnout of Democrats for a September primary, even though she faced no opposition.

“There was an incredible outpouring last night, a historic high for voting,” she said. “I can feel the energy across the district so I am very confident of our chances and look forward to a robust debate on the issues.”

That debate will bring out many differences between Negron and Kuster on issues like taxes, Second Amendment, abortion and health care policy. But Kuster says they might find some common ground.

“I think I see a lot of agreement on some of the issues that might surprise you,” she said. “I know he has talked a lot about immigration and his family coming from Mexico and I think he’s a great model for what he’s doing to build up our country and for families to be reunited that way.”

Negron supports President Trump’s call to reduce legal immigration by 50 percent over the next decade through elimination of chain migration and the lottery system, and conversion to a merit-based system.

“Fundamentally, we both agree that we were built on a land of immigrants, but where we might diverge is my version of immigration isn’t as wide a door as hers. My opening is a bit narrower, because I believe immigration is a national security issue,” he said.

The one-term state representative and newcomer to national politics expects to be outspent by the three-term incumbent.

“The money doesn’t have to be equal, dollar for dollar, but it does have to be enough for us to be surgical,” Negron said.

“I wasn’t the best-funded in this (primary) campaign, but we used our money judiciously. We looked at return on investment.”


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