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'Kuster, Bass debate over past governors'

Last modified: 10/18/2012 12:00:00 AM
A few weeks ago Annie Kuster called former Republican governor Mel Thomson a "worm," and yesterday, two of his sons defended him, saying he'd have voted for Kuster's 2nd District congressional opponent, U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass.

"Annie Kuster felt that she could call Gov. Thomson a worm," Peter Thomson said at a press conference at the Legislative Office Building yesterday. His father was an avid gardener, he said, and wouldn't have been terribly offended by what she said.

"He was always in the worms," Peter Thomson said, flanked by his brother Rob and Bass.

Kuster shot back in a press release that Bass, by accepting the endorsement, was aligning himself with Tea Party extremists.

"Governor Thomson represented a radical shift in our state's politics and was the beginning of the end for Republican moderates in the state of New Hampshire," Kuster said in a prepared statement.

The two are in a tight rematch of 2010 when Bass, of Peterborough, beat Kuster, a Hopkinton Democrat, by about 3,500 votes.

The Bass campaign called the conference to draw attention to Kuster's support of a state income tax in the late 1990s, and Kuster's campaign in turn wanted to point out Bass's support of the budget set out by Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney's running mate, which they said would harm middle-class families.

In the process, they spent much of the day debating which of two 1970s Republican governors was better.

"I am much more interested in following the example of Republican Governor Walter Peterson, who during his administration made it a point to represent all of New Hampshire, not just a radical faction," Kuster also said in a press release.

Kuster has said in the past that Thomson's bid for New Hampshire governor in 1972 was what drove her parents, both active Republicans, from the party. He supported giving the National Guard nuclear weapons, Kuster said. He also threatened to veto funding for the University of New Hampshire after he found a play they put on offensive.

Kuster's mother, a former state senator who died in 2005 of Alzheimer's, was "very close" with Peterson, Kuster said in a recent interview with the Monitor.

When Thomson beat Peterson in the 1972 Republican primary, Kuster's father, Malcolm McLane, ran as an independent. Bass's father, Perkins, supported McLane's efforts.

Bass's spokesman, Scott Tranchemontagne, said even if Charlie Bass's father endorsed Annie Kuster's father 40 years ago, he was a politician who "practiced civility in politics."

"One thing that I can assure you is that Perkins Bass never called Mel Thomson a worm in the press," Tranchemontagne said.

During the press conference, Bass said he'd vote yes on a ballot initiative to amend the New Hampshire Constitution to ban an income tax. He illustrated the point by using a marker to check "yes" in a box on a large poster board on an easel.

Kuster has said she doesn't support an income tax but will vote no on the constitutional amendment. Her position on the state issue is relevant because it is "illustrative" of her overall political leanings.

"If she is elected to Congress, one of the first votes she'll cast is to raise income taxes at the federal level," Bass said, referring to Kuster's support of allowing the Bush-era tax cuts on incomes higher than $250,000 to expire at the end of the year.

Her campaign dismissed the criticism.

"Congressman Bass is once again trying to distract voters from his partisan record of voting to end Medicare as we know it and privatize Social Security" Kuster spokesman Rob Friedlander said in a press release.

(Molly A.K. Connors can be reached at 369-3319 or mconnors@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @MAKConnors.)


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