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1st District candidates, moderator chided at Democratic forum

  • Chirs Pappas, center, speaks at a forum of Democratic candidates for Congressional District 1 held in Laconia, Aug. 9, 2018. Ethan DeWitt—Ethan DeWitt



For the Monitor
Friday, August 10, 2018

In a forum that focused on policy, it was the political sniping between the 1st Congressional District Democratic candidates that created the most sparks.

Executive Councilor Chris Pappas of Manchester and U.S. Marine veteran Maura Sullivan of Portsmouth, two of the perceived leaders among the 11 contenders running to succeed retiring four-term Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, were once again targeted by their rivals.

But the clash that was perhaps most unexpected Thursday night was between Levi Sanders – a Claremont resident and the son of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – and New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, who was moderating the party-organized forum held at the Margate Resort in Laconia.

Sanders – as he did at a forum last week – once again lamented the lack of debates in the Democratic nomination battle.

Standing just a few feet from Buckley, Sanders said “we’ve not had one debate whatsoever throughout this entire process. That is antithetical to democracy. So if you folks believe in democracy, I would encourage you to contact the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Ray will give you his phone number. And say, ‘We demand debates.’ ”

Then Sanders – as he’s done repeatedly at recent forums – criticized Sullivan for taking “money from corporations” and claimed Pappas “does not believe in Medicare for all.”

Those comments elicited heckles from some in the audience.

“Unite the party. Unite the party” they chanted.

But another person in the crowd – defending Sanders – yelled “let him speak.”

When Sanders’s allotted time expired, he refused to stop talking, which sparked an argument between him and Buckley.

Buckley ordered that Sanders’s microphone be shut off and said, “You want to get the press attention.”

Sanders was booed again by some in the audience after he criticized Buckley over the salary the longtime party chairman receives.

Buckley later highlighted that by the Sept. 11 primary, “nearly 30 joint forums, debates, joint-appearances” will have been held.

Pappas, a Manchester native, repeatedly highlighted his Granite State roots, saying, “For me this campaign is personal. This is about the people I know.”

And without naming her, he repeatedly targeted Sullivan over her large campaign cash advantage in the race, saying the race is “not about who has the biggest pile of money at the end of the day. It’s who has the biggest ideas. Who can relate to the people of New Hampshire.”

Sullivan, who’s been criticized as a carpetbagger after moving to New Hampshire last summer, defended her fundraising, saying “I’m not taking a dime from corporations. I’m not taking a dime of corporate PAC money.”

And referencing her deployment in the war in Iraq, she added that, “What I am doing is putting together what Democrats need to win. I’m a United States Marine and I fought in a war.”

State Rep. Mindi Messmer of Rye, an environmental scientist, highlighted that, “Ninety percent of my contributions are from in-state people. My campaign is walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”

Deaglan McEachern, a Portsmouth native who’s a technology executive and community activist, said that the way “to get big money out of politics is big organizing, is knocking on doors, is making phone calls.”

He touted that, “We knocked on 1,100 doors today in Laconia because we want to listen to you. We want to hear your voice. We want to bring your voice down to Washington. We’re not going to listen if we’re running a TV ad. We’re not going to be listening if we send you a mailer.”

Former Shea-Porter chief of staff Naomi Andrews, who also managed two of the congresswoman’s re-election campaigns, emphasized that “Carol and I won this district in 2016.”

“Carol and I stood on the campaign battleground and we won. The work that we’ve done over the years has earned us the respect and trust and support of this district,” she said.

Lincoln Soldati, the longtime trial lawyer who lives in Portsmouth, urged that President Donald Trump face impeachment.

“If you believe as I do that Donald Trump represents the most fundamental threat to the integrity of American democracy, then impeachment is not a political or strategic issue, it’s a moral imperative,” said Soldati, who served nearly two decades as Strafford County attorney before being elected mayor of Somersworth.

And he vowed if elected “to lead the fight on the Judiciary Committee to impeach Donald Trump.”

State Rep. Mark Mackenzie of Manchester, a former firefighter who served 25 years as head of the state AFL-CIO, said that he’s “been fighting the fight long before some of these people were even born.”

Taking aim at all of his rivals, he said “the only thing I’ve got to say, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to anybody here, but where have you been in the progressive movement in New Hampshire. Because I know pretty much everybody that’s doing that kind of work in New Hampshire and these people have not been here.”

Paul Cardinal of Merrimack and William Martin of Manchester also took part in the forum.

Terence O’Rourke, the Rochester city attorney and Iraq veteran, was ill and didn’t attend the forum.