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Ayotte speaks at foreign policy forum

Special to the Union Leader

October 26. 2016 9:23PM

HOOKSETT — A better follow-up plan for Mosul and a greater physical presence in Russia and China were just some of the measures U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte advocated at a public foreign policy forum Wednesday night at Southern New Hampshire University in Hooksett.

The event was part of a World Affairs Council of New Hampshire series of foreign policy forums featuring the Democratic and Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate in partnership with SNHU’s College Republicans, NH College Democrats, and NH Young Democrats.

The Democratic candidate for Senate, Gov. Maggie Hassan, will be featured in a forum on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Mara Auditorium on the SNHU campus.

According to WACNH Executive Director Anna Berry, the forums are intended to explore each candidate’s views on America’s role in the world and educate voters about current global issues. The World Affairs Council of New Hampshire is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization whose mission is “fostering learning, discussion and citizen involvement in world affairs.”

The forum featuring Ayotte, was moderated by civic scholar Dean Spiliotes and consisted of questions from both Spiliotis and attendees, of which there were roughly 50.

When it came to conflict overseas, Ayotte said she appreciated that the United States had been taking a more aggressive stance relative to our role in helping to free Mosul from Islamic State. But she said, she still would like to see a plan for what will happen if Mosul and then Raqqa are taken back. She said if that happens, she would like to see the U.S. encourage the Iraqi government to have a government inclusive of everyone going forward. She noted that it was the Iraqi government’s failure to include Sunni Muslims in the process that helped pave the way for Islamic State.

She also said the U.S. needs to urge NATO and the Arab nations to play a greater role in the process overall, but especially if Mosul and Raqqa are liberated. Overall though, she said, she only wants to see the U.S. play a supportive role in the conflict.

As for the tense relations between the U.S. and China and Russia, she said the U.S. needs to stop decreasing funding to the military, the Navy in particular. She also said, the U.S. needs a, “stronger presence in both those countries. …We need to come from a place of strength. Without that, they won’t respond to us. We need to support our military by making sure we don’t shrink our military.

“We need more of a physical presence in the region (of Russia and China).”

She also said she would like to see the U.S. encourage Germany to follow through on imposing sanctions against Russia.

“We should push them to do that,” she said.

An audience member submitted a question asking Ayotte what she thought the role of companies like Google and facebook were when it came to Islamic State’s presence on the internet. Ayotte applauded the efforts of some of the companies for taking down such sites, but said they could be “more aggressive.” She also said she would like to see companies such as Apple work with the government to come up with a way to get information from various technologies as long as the constitutional legal search standards were met.

When asked about immigration, Ayotte laid out a two-pronged approach she said she’d like to see adopted. The first step she said, would be to double the fencing and patrol at the border. At the same time, she said, she wanted to see any undocumented immigrant who has committed a crime, immediately deported. Others who are here illegally, she said, should be able to pay a fine, start paying taxes and if they can show they are learning English and have a job, they can get in the “back of the line,” to become a citizen legally. When pressed by Spiliotis as to whether they would do this from inside the U.S. or after first being deported back to their home countries, Ayotte didn’t commit to an answer, but said, “Well, I haven’t figured out logistically how many buses it would take,” to deport that many people. So in the meantime, they could get in the back of the line and go through the process properly. Ayotte also said she would like to see revisions that made the legalization process itself less confusing and quicker.

At the end of the talk, Spiliotes gave Ayotte the opportunity to respond to a political ad suggesting that Ayotte regularly missed Homeland Security Committee meetings.

Ayotte said she was a member of five committees that often held meetings at the same time. She said whenever she missed a meeting, she always sent a staffer to the meeting in her place and submitted written questions for the record. And while she may have missed those meetings, she said, she encouraged people to look at her voting record which she said was one of the best in her delegation.

“I can assure you,” she said. “I work my hardest to be at as many things as I possibly can be on your behalf.”

Deborah Hall of West Lebanon, a registered independent and an undecided voter, said hearing Ayotte speak didn’t move the needle much for her in terms of who she was going to vote for.

“I’m still undecided. I think it’s a really close race,” she said of the Senate race between Ayotte and the Democratic candidate, Gov. Maggie Hassan. “She didn’t really say anything that surprised me. She said what I thought she’d say.”

The events are free and open to the public but advance registration is required. To register, go to or call 314-7970. Same day registration opens 5 p.m. Friday.

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