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Kevin Landrigan's Granite Status: Themes for growing Pappas-Edwards battle are now set

October 10. 2018 9:30PM

Democrat Chris Pappas and Republican Eddie Edwards genuinely seem to like one another, but this 1st Congressional District race is going to get a lot rougher in the next few weeks.

The first debate the two engaged in on New Hampshire Public Radio Wednesday opened up lines of attack that you can bet both their campaigns will go after.

Let’s review some of those themes, which go beyond the traditional Democratic defense of abortion rights and the Republican opposition to raising taxes.

• Social Security: Politically it’s still the third rail but Edwards did not shy away from his view that over the long term, younger workers have to start preparing to build their own retirement income.

Edwards favors retaining benefits for those at or near retirement age but Congress should help create investment incentives so younger workers can “wean off” Social Security, he said.

Within an hour of the event Wednesday, Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley came out firing.

“Our seniors rely on Social Security, and it has lifted millions of seniors out of poverty. The notion that he wants to ‘wean people off’ this earned benefit is absurd. Seniors pay into this program their whole lives, and Edwards wants to take away what is essentially their life savings,” Buckley said.

“He will have a very hard time explaining that position to New Hampshire seniors as he makes his way around the district.”

Again Edwards isn’t aiming his message at seniors but don’t expert Democrats to respect that fine point.

• Deficit spending: On health care, Pappas said he favors letting individuals and small businesses voluntarily join Medicare to get insurance if it would be more affordable for them. But the Democrat would not say how much that would cost or how he’d pay for it.

“He articulated support for universal health care and advocated for more initiatives that would hurt small businesses in our state and country,” said Derek Dufresne, general consultant to the Edwards campaign. “None of this is in line with what New Hampshire hopes to see out of their next representative in Congress.”

• Identity politics: Edwards may have surprised some with his refusal to embrace this as a watershed race, since he would be the first African-American if he won and Pappas would be the first openly gay member of Congress.

Dufresne and Edwards both reject that’s the talking point of career politicians.

“We need a bold leader who understands that who he is as an individual does not make him special. It is what that individual does for his family, state, and nation that makes him special,” Dufresne said. “The voters of NH-01 understand that they need someone who will continue a commitment to service rather than one who views this election as another advancement in his political career.”

• Allegiance to Trump: This may be the most interesting one. Rather than tack to the middle and set himself apart, Edwards is embracing the Trump agenda.

He lashed out at Pappas and Democrats for trying to “demonize” the President’s bullying behavior when other leaders in Congress have been guilty of the same thing.

With a recent poll that showed this race winnable, the Edwards strategy may be a play to try to convince the National Republican Congressional Committee to financially invest in this race.

Clearly Edwards and those advising him also want to keep the Trump base motivated to ensure they come out to vote on Nov. 6.

If you’re free a week from today, these two next debate before the state chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons.

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When you’re the incumbent and leading in the polls you get to go positive on the airwaves.

That’s what we saw Tuesday with Gov. Chris Sununu’s first paid ad of 2018 on WMUR and cable outlets that was doing a victory lap on the state’s strong economy.

The 30-second ad starts and closes with Sununu speaking to the camera in front of the gazebo in downtown Exeter.

“Today in New Hampshire, businesses are hiring and we are creating thousands of good jobs. We are balancing the budget and without raising taxes. We said no to tax hikes, toll hikes and costly regulations. We provided property tax relief by returning $65 million to cities and towns for roads, bridges and safer schools,” Sununu said.

“Our economy is booming and more people are working than ever before. New Hampshire is back and better than ever, and nothing is going to slow us down.”

By contrast Democratic opponent and former state Sen. Molly Kelly in her paid ads has already gone after Sununu’s opposition to renewable energy and the financial support Sununu has gotten from Eversource NH.

Kelly campaign spokesman Chris Moyer said Sununu’s strategy will backfire.

“Chris Sununu is patting himself on the back when he ought to be rolling up his sleeves because the New Hampshire economy is not working for everyone, and too many people are being left behind,” Moyer said.

“Chris Sununu can’t see past the corporate special interests paying for his campaign to understand the challenges people face. He blocked bipartisan paid family leave and failed to protect vulnerable children who rely on the Division for Children, Youth and Families.”

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The debate over debates has infiltrated the open seat for Executive Council that Pappas is leaving to run for Congress, the 4th District.

Democratic nominee and Manchester businessman Gray Chynoweth accused Republican nominee and ex-Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas of ducking an encounter by failing to agree to a date for a debate before the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

Chynoweth’s campaign said their candidate would agree to any date that worked for Gatsas.

“If you’re applying for a job, you have to show up to the interview. For this reason, I was excited to say yes to the debate proposed by the Manchester Chamber. I’m disappointed former Mayor Gatsas declined the opportunity,” Chynoweth said.

“The stakes are high in this race — for businesses, for women’s health, and for our state’s future. This race is a choice between my new ideas and his old politics. I stand ready to show up to any debate, to join any forum on any issue and to listen to the concerns of voters. I encourage former Mayor Gatsas to reconsider and to join me. The voters deserve no less.”

Gatsas could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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The two major contenders for the 2nd District seat will take part in their first joint appearance today at a forum hosted by AARP at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord.

Republican nominee and state Rep. Steve Negron of Nashua will speak before the group at 11:30.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, will speak at noon.

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With less than four weeks to go, the non-partisan Governing Magazine has gone out on a limb, insisting the majority in both the New Hampshire House of Representatives and the state Senate now held by Republicans has gone from “toss-up” to “lean Democratic.”

The magazine cites the Democrats’ winning streak in special elections — nine of 11 since the 2016 presidential election.

“Democrats are gaining momentum across the state because voters can see that we are advocating for a New Hampshire that works for everyone, not just those at the top. In our Granite State Opportunity Plan, Senate Democrats outlined clear goals and objectives for what New Hampshire can expect to see from a Democratic Senate majority,” said Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy.

“I’m proud to say our plan benefits Granite Staters across the state from all different walks of life. We still have a lot of work to do to turn a Senate Democratic majority into a reality, but this rating change speaks to a shift that is happening across the state.”

As for the two congressional races, Politico has declared the 1st District race to be “lean Democratic” and the 2nd District race “likely Democratic” for incumbent Kuster.

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Maryland U.S. Rep. John Delaney makes his 12th Democratic presidential exploratory trip to New Hampshire this weekend.

Delaney will be at a house party for local Democratic candidates Friday night at 605 Center Road in Hillsborough.

On Saturday he starts in Plymouth for a canvass launch and then heads to Laconia and Epping.

On Sunday he does a canvass event in Peterborough.

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Marty Boldin, Sununu’s former drug adviser who stepped down from his post after a personnel probe was launched against him, has landed on his feet.

Boldin is now the director of recovery services at Aware Recovery Care Home Addiction Treatment in Bedford, according to his profile on Linkedin.

There wasn’t any questioning Boldin’s credentials as someone who was on the cutting edge of what works when it comes to treating substance abuse.

Attorney General Gordon MacDonald’s office had looked into complaints some working at private non-profit agencies had raised about Boldin’s treatment of their employees.

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Editor's Note: An earlier version of this column erroneously reported that Bobby Collins has been named the new state Senate communications director. No decision has been made on the position at this time. 

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Health care reform took center stage on Capitol Hill Wednesday as the state’s two U.S. senators supported a resolution to oppose a Trump administration rule about short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans.

“These junk insurance policies will subject patients to sky-high medical bills, erode protections for pre-existing conditions, cover fewer vital services that patients need and undermine the stability of health insurance markets,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH.

“The expansion of junk plans is yet another example of the Trump administration’s targeted effort to undermine the protections that the Affordable Care Act provides for millions of people living with pre-existing conditions, including more than 572,000 Granite Staters.”

But Greg Moore, state director of the fiscally conservative Americans for Prosperity chapter, said Trump’s rule was helping individuals who were priced out of the market under the Affordable Care Act.

“Many Granite Staters are trapped under Obamacare’s rising health care costs and need options that are affordable and work for them. Our senators have said they will work to fix Obamacare, but instead of helping increase Granite Staters’ access to affordable plans, they tried to force Granite Staters to continue paying for Obamacare’s unaffordable, one-size-fits-all plans,” Moore said.

The resolution opposing Trump’s rule died on a 50-50 vote.

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The U.S. Senate approved bipartisan legislation Wednesday to provide consumer protections for the flying public, including provisions that Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, had sought.

The bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration Act improves aircraft accessibility for people with disabilities and gives security protections to pilots.

Hassan got involved in the measure after an April 2017 incident in which a passenger was forcibly removed from a plane at the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and injured in order to make room for United employees who needed four seats on the flight.

The provision Hassan wrote strengthens consumer protections by guaranteeing a boarded passenger has the right to fly, provides for fair compensation to ticket-holding travelers who are involuntarily bumped, and requires further study on the impact of airline overbooking practices.

“I am pleased that this reauthorization includes the bipartisan TICKETS Act that I introduced to prevent another horrifying incident like the one that occurred on United Airlines Flight 3411 from happening again, and to ensure that all people are treated with greater fairness and respect by the airline industry,” Hassan said.

The bill now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

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