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Kuster, Lawrence debate focuses on taxes, guns and energy



Associated Press
Saturday, November 05, 2016

Editor’s note: In a previous version of this story, the Associated Press erroneously reported Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster's comments on who should be banned from purchasing semi-automatic rifles. Kuster said she thinks people on terrorist watch lists, not ordinary citizens, should be banned from buying those types of guns. The story below has been corrected.

Republican congressional candidate Jim Lawrence said Friday that questions about his unpaid property taxes are “a mere distraction” from real issues.

Lawrence squared off against Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster in their final televised debate to represent New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District. It covers western and northern New Hampshire. The debate, which aired live on WMUR, also touched on guns, Social Security and the Northern Pass transmission project.

The Monitor has reported Lawrence owes more than $15,000 in unpaid taxes on his Hudson home. Kuster previously has been late on her property taxes, a fact that surfaced during her prior campaigns. A panelist in Friday’s debate asked Lawrence how voters could trust his calls for fiscal responsibility given his tax delinquency.

“These personal discussions about candidates’ backgrounds are a mere distraction from the real issues that voters should be concerned about,” he said.

Lawrence is a former state representative and veteran. He ran unsuccessfully in the 2014 Republican primary. Kuster, a lawyer, was first elected in 2012.

Kuster touted her work fighting for veterans and against the state’s heroin and opioid crisis. She co-chairs a bipartisan heroin task force in Congress alongside Republican Rep. Frank Guinta, also of New Hampshire. Lawrence, meanwhile, pledged to bring fresh solutions to a “broken” Washington if elected.

Kuster participated in a congressional sit-in this summer to demand the House take action on a series of gun control measures following the mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, where 49 people were killed. The shooter used a semi-automatic rifle, and Kuster said those on terrorist watch lists should not be able to buy those weapons. She also called for expanding background checks on gun sales.

But Lawrence said more gun control isn’t the answer. Instead, he called for giving law enforcement more resources to follow through on investigations of suspected terrorists.

On Social Security, Kuster said she opposes raising the age of eligibility. But she said she would raise the income cap to ensure wealthier Americans continue paying into the program. Lawrence, meanwhile, said he’d work to make sure Congress can’t spend Social Security money on other programs.

The two also differed on how best to support New Hampshire’s economically depressed North Country. Kuster called for investing in public-private partnerships to spur development and focusing on improving roads and bridges. Lawrence said the answer lies in cutting regulations that are stifling business growth.

On energy projects, Kuster and Lawrence offered different views on the Northern Pass transmission project, which would bring hydropower from Canada into the New England energy grid. Lawrence called the program a “bad deal” that would wreck New Hampshire’s natural landscape and do little to lower energy costs.

Kuster, meanwhile, said it’s important to explore all options given New Hampshire’s high energy costs.