GOP 1st District candidate Edwards: ‘We need to be honest’ about racism

  • Eddie Edwards, candidate for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District, talks to party activists at a Rockingham County GOP holiday event in December in Portsmouth. PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 1/15/2018 12:39:09 AM

Eddie Edwards grew up Atlanta not too far from the childhood home of Martin Luther King Jr.

“I’m very familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King’s promise, his tone, and his work. And growing up in an environment like that and seeing those things and being a part of that upbringing, it just reinforces for me every day, the pride in this nation,” the Republican candidate in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District told the Monitor two days before the MLK federal holiday.

Edwards, a Navy veteran, former South Hampton police chief and former State Liquor Commission chief enforcement officer, would make history if he wins as the first African-American elected to Congress from New Hampshire.

The Dover resident touted his resume when asked what he brings to the table.

“I’ve dedicated my life to serve this country and serve this community,” he said.

“I look back at my professional career in law enforcement and the military and I think I’m well-suited to represent the district,” he added.

When the conversation turned to President Donald Trump, Edwards offered his opinion.

“I think the president is delivering on his promises to folks,” he said. “I think he’s trying. He’s not a perfect person. None of us are.”

Trump once again sparked controversy in recent days after he reportedly derided Haiti and described African nations as “shithole countries” during a White House discussion with a bipartisan group of U.S. Senate leaders regarding a possible immigration deal.

Trump denied that he said the word “shithole.” But Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who attended the Thursday meeting, confirmed the next day that the president did say the vulgar comment.

Asked what he thought of the president’s reported comments and whether he felt they were racist in nature, Edwards didn’t defend or criticize Trump, but he said, “It seems to me in this country, we let some people make comments and there’s a pass.”

But he added that others who make similar comments are quickly judged and labeled a racist.

“I think if we’re going to have this conversation about racism, we need to be honest about it. We need to tell the truth about it. And we need to hold all people accountable for their comments,” he said. “If we hold some accountable, then we should hold everyone accountable for their comments.”

Edwards said he found it “concerning” that only white conservative men are labeled racists.

“If folks are making comments and using divisive language, regardless of their race, their ethnicity, their gender, they should be held accountable for that,” Edwards continued. “And I can tell you that I don’t see that happening. Similar comments have been made in the past and people have been allowed to walk past those comments without any accountability.”

Edwards then said “a white liberal here (in New Hampshire) says, I’m not qualified and that person’s not held to task.”

Edwards was referring to a Jan. 4 tweet by New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley that targeted state Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford, the other declared Republican candidate in the 1st District race to succeed retiring four-term Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. In that tweet Buckley also called Edwards “unqualified.”

Edwards was the first candidate to jump into the race, launching his campaign nine months ago.

“I think it’s going as expected. I am thrilled with the support and the feedback I’ve been getting throughout the district,” Edwards said. “One of my goals was to come out early so voters would really have the opportunity to get to know me. And I think that’s really important.”

Last month the Edwards campaign put out a profile web video, which included the candidate openly discussing childhood memories of how he witnessed his mother being beaten by his father.

“Learning firsthand the trauma that women face who have been verbally and physically abused, it shapes your direction in life,” Edwards told the Monitor. “I’ve seen drug use and abuse firsthand. Violence firsthand. It shapes your direction in life.”

He credited his grandmother with an essential role in his upbringing.

“I thank God every day that my grandmother was involved in my life,” he said. “Very few of us as men can say we were taught how to be a man by a woman. She just taught me the values of this country. She taught me how to love, how to forgive, how to be responsible and believe in independence and self-reliance. You want something in life, you work hard for it.”

When the discussion turned to policy, Edwards said he strongly supports the congressional GOP tax cut bill that Trump recently signed into law.

“When you provide tax cuts to businesspeople, they have an opportunity to grow. They have an opportunity to do wonderful things and we’re starting to see that happen,” he predicted.

On health care, Edwards was critical of Republicans in Congress for failing to scrap the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

“I was a little disappointed to see that for seven years we talked about repeal and replacement. And then we discover there’s a lack of courage to do what we said we were going to do. There was a lack of a plan,” he said. “I certainly believe and support a market-based system of health care. But clearly we have to take care of our vulnerable populations.”

New Hampshire’s 1st District, which stretches from Manchester east to the Seacoast and north through the Lakes Region to the White Mountains, is one of the most high-profile and expensive swing congressional districts in the country. It’s pingponged between Democratic and Republican control the past four elections.

The purple district in a purple state is also one of only 12 across the country controlled by Democrats that Donald Trump won in the 2016 presidential election. And for the first time in 16 years, there’s no incumbent running for re-election.

The race for the GOP nomination may soon include two more candidates. Carroll County Commissioner and former state senator Mark Hounsell of Conway said last week that he’ll jump into the race. And Dover resident and former New Hampshire GOP vice-chairman Matt Mayberry has also said he is seriously considering a bid.

There are seven Democrats running for their party’s congressional nomination.

They are Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester; state Rep. Mark Mackenzie of Manchester, a former fireman who served more than two decades as head of the state chapter of the AFL-CIO; Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth, a U.S. Marine veteran who served in the Iraq War and worked at the Pentagon in the Obama administration; Army veteran and Rochester city attorney Terence O’Rourke; retired Portsmouth trial lawyer Lincoln Soldati, a former Somersworth mayor who also spent 17-years as Strafford County attorney; and state Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye, an environmental scientist.

Last week, technology executive and community activist Deaglan McEachern announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination.


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