2nd Congressional District Republicans tout Trump in Concord debate

  • Candidates speak on stage during a debate in the race for the Republican nomination in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 8/17/2018 12:06:27 AM

The five major Republicans running in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District mostly agreed on policy as they took aim at Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster at a state GOP debate on Thursday night.

The candidates taking part in the showdown – which was held at Concord’s Grappone Center – all strongly supported President Donald Trump and embraced his tough stance on illegal immigration, criticized the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to tamper with the 2016 presidential election, touted their strong backing of the Second Amendment, and were all highly skeptical of climate change.

While all five praised the president, Bedford resident and former Hillsborough County treasurer Robert Burns touted that he was “an original Trump supporter early on.”

“It’s wonderful to see so many Republicans getting on board now with Donald Trump,” said Burns, who served as chair of the Trump campaign’s youth coalition and as a delegate to the 2016 GOP presidential nominating convention.

While all five candidates criticized the Russia investigation, former state Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker of Concord – who’s spent over 30 years in the military – stood apart with a softer stance.

“I think we need to let investigations do what the investigations need to do. We just need to let that happen on its own,” she said.

Four of the five candidates opposed the state’s Medicaid expansion program, which provides health coverage for more than 50,000 Granite Staters.

Burns claimed that “expanded Medicaid has been terrible for this state. It’s largely responsible for the opioid crisis.”

But Dr. Stewart Levenson, a former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs regional director who in 2017 was one of the top whistleblowers at the Manchester VA Medical Center – called for continuing but repairing the program.

“Removing the safety net is rather difficult,” the Hopkinton Republican said.

While strongly supporting health care options for veterans, all five candidates refused to commit to backing a full-service hospital in New Hampshire for veterans.

State Rep. Steve Negron, a U.S. Air Force veteran and businessman from Nashua, said a full-service medical facility is “one option, but it’s not the only option.”

On climate change, Negron said, “I don’t believe necessarily that there is climate change that everybody is running around being scared.”

Levenson charged that “climate change is being used as an excuse for the redistribution of wealth.”

Blankenbeker said “I don’t believe the climate change sky is falling in.”

“I don’t see the climate change tragedy that the Democrats talk about,” she added.

Burns argued that “the scientific data has never been there to prove” global warming and said, “Now we talk a lot about climate change because the global warming didn’t quite work out.”

New Boston’s Brian Belanger, the fifth candidate taking part in the debate, stated that “I don’t believe that the global warming thing is as big as they make it.”

Blankenbeker, a U.S. Air Force and Navy veteran who was deployed to Oman and Kuwait during Desert Shield and Desert Storm as a combat nurse and who’s currently a Navy reservist and part-time commanding officer of a 600-member medical unit in San Diego, touted her resume.

“I have the resume, the experience and the education that can stand up against Anne Kuster,” she said. “Congress is fractured, and we need to send this nurse to Congress to heal it.”

Negron joked that “I miss Ann Kuster and I want her home.”

He vowed to take the fight to the three-term Democratic congresswoman from Hopkinton and highlighted that if he wins the Sept. 11 primary, Kuster “has no idea what’s about to hit her.”

Levenson emphasized that “we need a conservative outsider to work with the president to bring about real change.”

And he argued that “I’m the one with an established background in being a reformer.”

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