Shaheen, Brown face off in final debate

Last modified: 11/4/2014 7:29:13 PM
The state’s U.S. Senate candidates met last night for their final debate, where just days before the election they underscored contrasting stances on health care, the economy and foreign policy – as well as their knowledge of New Hampshire.

A question on the economy in Sullivan County proved to be one of the debate’s tensest moments after panelist James Pindell of WMUR asked Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Scott Brown about the county located along the Vermont border.

After Brown listed tourism and ski areas as economic opportunities and said challenges include Obamacare and high electric races, Pindell jumped in.

“I think you were talking about the North Country,” Pindell said.

“We’re talking about any place past Concord, actually, and the challenges of our state,” Brown responded.

“Sullivan County is west of Concord, not north of Concord Senator Brown, so what do you see going well there?” Pindell asked.

“With respect, I have answered the question. The challenges are the same in every county of our state,” Brown responded. Shaheen, who is seeking re-election, answered afterward and talked about grants and tax credits she helped secure for industries in Claremont.

After the debate, Brown said the ski resort he referenced was Mount Sunapee, located within Sullivan County. He’s planning to make a campaign stop in Newport tomorrow, and Shaheen’s campaign also said after the debate she would visit Sullivan County today. Pindell later apologized, saying he misrepresented the location of Sullivan County.

It wasn’t the only question during the debate – held at Saint Anselm College in Manchester – that focused on Brown’s move to the Granite State last December.

When asked why the former Massachusetts senator decided to run in New Hampshire, he responded by saying he was born at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and his New Hampshire roots trace back nine generations.

“We both care about New Hampshire,” he said “The question is: What are we going to do for New Hampshire?”

Turning the question to Shaheen, the panel asked whether it’s a problem when politicians like Brown or former New York senator Hillary Clinton move to a state soon before running for office.

“It’s not a problem (that) Hillary or Scott Brown moved,” said Shaheen, who is campaigning with Clinton this weekend. “The question is not where he’s from, the question is what he’s for.”

A WMUR Granite State Poll released last night showed Shaheen leading Brown by nine points, within the margin of error. The race has continued to tighten and has become more nationalized. Several of the questions asked by co-moderators George Stephanopoulos of ABC and Josh McElveen of WMUR reflected that.

On Ebola, Brown emphasized the need for a mandatory quarantine, and he reiterated his support for a travel ban. “I would argue the government absolutely has the ability to enforce” a quarantine, Brown said. “We need to put public safety above personal inconvenience.”

New Hampshire announced plans for home quarantine this week that would apply to health workers returning to the country after treating Ebola patients abroad.

“Hopefully people will be willing to voluntarily do it. If they don’t, governors have authority to enforce it,” said Shaheen, who is a former New Hampshire governor.

When it comes to America’s efforts to fight the Islamic state, Brown continued to assert that the U.S. shouldn’t take options off the table. Shaheen said she would oppose sending in an “occupying force.”

“We’re a liberating force,” Brown countered.

He also continued to underscore the need to secure the border – something he said Shaheen opposes – in order to keep out foreign threats like terrorists or diseases such as Ebola and polio. He said security measures include fences, walls, aerial surveillance and troops, and that the cost “is irrelevant.

“The safety and security of our country is the most important thing.”

He defended a statement he made earlier that people illegally crossing the border could potentially carry diseases like polio. The enterovirus, which has polio-like symptoms, is real, Brown said. “It’s in our country right now.”

Shaheen countered that Brown is trying to scare people about the border. “My opponent has been using concern that people have and really fear mongering that concern for his own purposes,” she said. “A leader should be serious.”

She challenged his claim that she has voted against border security, citing a comprehensive immigration bill she supported that she said would bolster border protection.

Shaheen said she disagreed with President Obama on another round of base closures, when she asked where they most recently differed on an issue. “I have said without any hesitation that we are not going to do another round of base closing,” she said.

On the Affordable Care Act, Shaheen said the government needs to fix what is wrong with the law. She said she would support repealing the medical device tax.

Brown argued she had a chance to make the law better over the past few years. “She had a chance to fix it,” he said. “To come now and be disingenuous with this is just wrong.”

Brown faced questions about his support for repealing the health care law. “To think that Obamacare is the only answer folks, it’s a false premise,” he said. “We can develop a plan that respects our rights and freedoms.”

In one area where the candidates agreed, both said they supported keeping guns from the hands of felons and the mentally ill. Brown said he would not propose any legislation on guns, and if it were to come up, he would hold a town hall meeting.

“People in New Hampshire know me,” Shaheen said. “When I was governor, I didn’t try to take their guns away.”

The debate wrapped up on a lighter note, when each candidate named which character from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown they would be.

“Lucy, of course,” Shaheen responded.

“Charlie Brown,” Brown said.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or

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