First Republican challenger to Shaheen strikes bipartisan tone

  • Retired Brigadier General Don Bolduc announced a Republican run for Senate on Monday. Paul Steinhauser—For the Monitor

  • Retired Brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc announces a Republican run for Senate on Monday. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 6/24/2019 5:42:59 PM

Saying he’s “ticked off” at the partisan sniping in the nation’s capitol, retired Brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

“Why can’t the people in Washington, D.C., get it right? Well, because they’re the wrong people,” Bolduc emphasized as he spoke in front of family and friends as he kicked off his 2020 Republican Senate campaign at the VFW Post 1631 in Concord on Monday.

The Laconia native who moved to Stratham after serving more than three decades in the U.S. Army quickly took aim at two-term Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who’s running for re-election.

“I want everyone to understand that I respect Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for her decades in the political arena, but she has been part of the failed leadership in Congress and it is time for a change,” Bolduc said.

Using a familiar playbook of being an outsider, Bolduc railed against Washington. “After 33 years in the Army, I don’t give a damn about politics,” he said.

He blamed “politics and failed leadership in Congress” for a lack of solutions to combat the opioid crisis, standing in the way of securing the nation’s border and national security, hurting working-class families and seniors, and “letting our veterans down.”

Bolduc also joined calls for a full-service VA medical center in New Hampshire.

“We owe it to them,” he emphasized. “They have earned it.”

He showed some independence from traditional Republican talking points by spotlighting student loan debt, an issue that many of the Democratic presidential candidates are focusing on this campaign cycle.

He blamed Congress for “ignoring student loan debt that is soaring to levels that could put a recession-sized dent into the economy and put higher education further out of the reach of those who are willing to earn it.”

The partisan divide in Washington is so great, he said, that it “threatens everything from the economy to our national security, and if unchecked, it will threaten the futures of our children and our country.”

While he called for politicians on both sides to “come together and work together,” Bolduc took a swipe at the Democrats.

“If you think in the air-conditioned halls of Congress I’m going to back down from loud-mouthed Democrats trying to tell me what to do, you are wrong,” he said.

Bolduc made clear in an interview with the Monitor that he supports Republican President Donald Trump.

“The President of the United States, I fully support,” he said. “Now, I don’t hang on every word the president says but the question we should be asking is how we should be supporting the president to make him successful, because if he’s successful, America’s successful.”

If elected, he said he would “help the president be successful with the programs he wants to put in place and the things that he wants to do.”

On policy, Bolduc said that “Obamacare is going to collapse under its own weight.”

He embraced Trump’s call for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, saying it’s part of an overall strategy to secure the Southern border.

Bolduc becomes the first Republican to formally announce a Senate bid, but he won’t have the field to himself for very long. Former New Hampshire House of Representatives speaker Bill O’Brien told the Monitor on Friday that he will have a “fairly big announcement on July 23.”

O’Brien noted that he’s “quite happy with all the support” he’s getting as he moves toward a decision. Asked about Buldoc, O’Brien said, “I welcome his participation.”

But the conservative O’Brien touted his own “proven record” as compared to an “aspirational record.”

Bolduc vowed not to go negative.

“One thing I will not do is engage in the politics of personal destruction. I am a fair and respectful man. I will not go down that road,” he declared Monday. “Others will attack me. They’ll spend millions trying to figure out every which way they can out me. Fine. Because that means their backs are up against the wall.”

Bolduc also promised that if elected, he’s not going to become a career politician and won’t worry about getting re-elected or even run again if he does a bad job.

Shaheen announced her re-election in January. The former three-term governor remains popular in polling and will be tough to defeat next year. Shaheen raised $1.4 million in campaign cash during the first three months of this year, as she ramps up her re-election effort.

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley took aim at Bolduc, O’Brien and attorney Bryant “Corky” Messner, who’s also seriously considering a Republican Senate bid.

“None of them can be counted on to stand up for New Hampshire,” Buckley said. “In sharp contrast, Granite Staters know and trust Jeanne Shaheen because she has a consistent record of putting New Hampshire first.”

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