Crime and support for police become a focal point for N.H. races

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    New Hampshire Republican U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc shakes hands with campaign volunteers while arriving with his dog "Victor" before voting, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Stratham, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Charles Krupa

  • FILE - Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., listens during a hearing March 14, 2022, in Manchester, N.H. Republican candidate Don Bolduc, staunchly conservative, retired Army general is favored to win New Hampshire's Republican Senate nomination and face potentially vulnerable Hassan. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File) Charles Krupa

For the Monitor
Published: 9/30/2022 4:52:03 PM

Amid a post Labor Day push by Republicans across the country to target Democratic candidates over the issue of crime, Sen. Maggie Hassan is pushing back, spending big bucks to showcase her record of support for law enforcement.

While Republicans often charge that Democrats support efforts to defund the police, Merrimack County Sheriff David Croft says in the senator’s campaign commercial that “Hassan’s done the opposite of defunding the police. In every budget as governor, Hassan increased funding for police, and it’s no different with Maggie in the Senate.”

Grafton County sheriff Jeff Stiegler highlighted that the senator has “voted with Republicans to add a 100,000 new police officers.”

With five and a half weeks until Election Day, the GOP is increasingly spotlighting crime and support for police – issues that national polls indicate voters trust Republicans with more than Democrats. They’ve been flooding the airwaves from coast to coast with ads zinging Democrats on the issue.

Hassan, who has presented herself as one of the more bi-partisan Democrats, continues to face pushback from Republicans who argue the only time New Hampshire’s junior senator is bi-partisan is when she wants to be re-elected

“Campaign-season Hassan vs. Senator Hassan: the tale of a career politician who has voted with [President] Biden 96 percent of the time, has worked against securing the border, and has voted against cracking down on the fentanyl pouring into our country,” Andrew Mahaleris, the Republican National Committee’s spokesperson in New Hampshire, said in a statement. “The glossy TV ads may tell one story, but Granite State voters know that Hassan is a Biden Democrat who will say or do anything to stay in power.”

Hassan, who Republicans view as vulnerable as she runs for a second six-year term representing New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate, is being challenged by GOP Senate nominee and retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc, in a race that’s one of a handful in swing states across the country that will determine if the Democrats hold onto their razor-thin majority in the chamber.

Bolduc served as an officer in the Laconia Police Department before embarking on a 33-year career in the military, which included 10 tours of duty in the Afghanistan war. Last week, he was endorsed by the Police Benevolent Association of New England.

While she hasn’t launched any TV ads on her support for law enforcement, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster spotlights the issue on the campaign trail.

“Members of Granite State law enforcement work tirelessly to protect our communities and residents. I’ve heard from police departments in cities and towns throughout our state that are facing serious challenges hiring and retaining the personnel they need. That’s why I’ve pushed legislation to provide resources for our local law enforcement to recruit and retain officers so they can more safely and effectively serve our communities,” Kuster said last week after the passage of law enforcement funding package.

The five-term federal lawmaker from Hopkinton, who represents New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District – which includes Concord – helped introduce parts of the bipartisan legislation. The bill included funding for local police departments in New Hampshire.

But the support by New Hampshire’s all-Democrat federal delegation appears at times to come at the expense of the strong push by the party’s progressive wing for policing reforms.

In 2020, House Democrats pushed for a broad package of legislation known as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which contained deep-set changes to policing in federal law including the explicit reversal of qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that protects police officers against lawsuits over what they do on the beat. Both Kuster and Rep. Chris Pappas in the state’s First Congressional District voted for the bill.

But Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the dean of the state’s federal delegation, said they were opposed to ending qualified immunity.

Advocates of police reform also question whether some of the federal funding included in the law enforcement bills supported by New Hampshire’s Congressional Democrats could be better spent addressing mental health services or drug treatment. A Monitoranalysis showed that in New Hampshire – one of the safest states in the country – over the last 20 years the number of police officers in New Hampshire grew by 20%, nearly twice as fast as the state’s population, which grew by 11%.

Poll position

The latest public opinion poll in New Hampshire’s high profile U.S. Senate race indicates Hassan continues to hold a single-digit lead over Bolduc.

According to the survey from Suffolk University for the Boston Globe, Hassan grabbed the support of 49.6% of likely Granite State voters, with Bolduc at 41.2%. Libertarian Jeremy Kauffman received the backing of 2.6% of respondents, with 6.6% undecided.

The topline Senate results in the poll, conducted Sept. 23-26, were similar to the numbers from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, which were released a week earlier.

The new poll suggested Hassan holding a 16-point advantage among independent, or undeclared voters. It also indicated Hassan’s favorable rating slightly above water, with Bolduc in negative territory.

The survey also indicated Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who’s running for a fourth two-year term steering the Granite State, at 52.6% support among likely voters and Democratic challenger and state senator Dr. Tom Sherman at 35.6%.

2024 Watch:Hogan back to N.H.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland returns to the Granite State on Thursday, Oct. 6, to headline the latest edition of “Politics and Eggs” at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

Hogan’s mulling a potential bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination and his participation in the speaking series at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, which has been a must stop for two decades for actual or potential White House contenders visiting the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state, will spark more speculation about his national ambitions.

Hogan, who is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in blue state Maryland, has been crisscrossing the country in recent months on behalf of fellow Republicans on the ballot in November. Those travels took him twice to New Hampshire this summer, with stops in early July and late August. In between those two trips, he also visited Iowa, whose caucuses for a half century have kicked off the presidential nominating calendar.

The governor told this reporter over the summer that he will potentially launch a Republican presidential campaign if he sees “there’s a possible road to victory, that there’s a lane and I have an opportunity.”

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