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In debate, Ayotte goes after Hassan — and Rubens

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 07. 2016 8:44PM
Republican primary opponent Jim Rubens gestures as U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte speaks Wednesday at WMUR in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER — The U.S. Senate debate Wednesday night was a two-in-one — Republican challenger Jim Rubens attacking incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Ayotte turning her assaults on Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is running for Senate.

Rubens, 58, did not miss any opportunity to go after Ayotte, branding her as a big-spending moderate whose “nation building” foreign policy has her in league with President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

And Rubens said Ayotte disqualified herself from a second, six-year term by supporting the so-called “Gang of Eight” immigration reform.

“She broke her promise; I supported her because she would not support amnesty and open borders,” Rubens said during the one-hour skirmish on WMUR-TV, which the Union Leader co-sponsored.

Ayotte, 48, said her legislation would have immediately deported criminals and her bipartisan attempt was to try to resolve a thorny issue that had divided Capitol Hill for decades.

Ayotte used the question to go after Hassan over a little-noticed vote in support of sanctuary cities the Democrat made as a state senator.

“I have voted against sanctuary cities; in the state Senate she voted to keep sanctuary cities in place,” Ayotte said.

Rubens drew a clear anti-immigrant line on admitting new refugees into the US.

“I support a complete shutdown of immigration, refugee intake from any country known to harbor terrorists,” Rubens said.

Ayotte responded: “I firmly believe that no one should come here as a refugee unless we can guarantee they have no connection to ISIS. This is another area in which I disagree with my opponent. What about those who have worked as translators of our men and women in uniform?”

They also parted company on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Rubens said in 2015 he could not support Trump but has since become a full-throated backer; he faulted Ayotte for declining to endorse Trump.

“I am voting for and I endorse Donald Trump; anything less than that is supporting Hillary Clinton,” Rubens said.

Ayotte said she has disagreed with Trump on some issues but is convinced Trump would deliver a stronger foreign policy and would work with Congress more cooperatively than Clinton.

Rubens criticized Ayotte for supporting gun control legislation such as denying guns to suspected terrorists.

“I will oppose any weakening of our Second Amendment rights and anything like this feel-good gun control legislation is not going to make us safer,” Rubens said.

Hassan has criticized Ayotte and called the proposal Ayotte supported loophole-ridden.

“I strongly believe in the constitutional rights of our citizens, but I also strongly believe that a terrorist or a criminal should not have access to a gun,” Ayotte said.

The Granite State Debates continue Thursday night at 7 with the two major candidates for the Second Congressional District seat and conclude Friday night at 7 with the two GOP candidates in the First Congressional District race.


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