Republicans in N.H. 2nd Congressional District united in criticism of Kuster

  • Belanger

  • Blankenbeker

  • Burns

  • Levenson

  • Negron

  • The Republican candidates in the 2nd Congressional District are eager to take on incumbent Democrat Annie Kuster.  By Paul Steinhauser

For the Monitor
Published: 9/6/2018 5:10:34 PM

The major Republican candidates running in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District have a lot to agree on – they routinely criticize Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster and praise GOP President Donald Trump.

“We need to support our president so that we can continue those great policies that he’s put in place that are benefiting the Granite State,” former state Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker of Concord said at a recent debate organized by the Nashua Republican Committee.

“The president is doing some great things,” emphasized state Rep. Steve Negron of Nashua.” I believe the president is doing those things that are important to us. He’s looking at the trade deals and I think those are the things that are going to bring the economy back and make us strong.”

Bedford businessman and former Hillsborough County treasurer Robert Burns touted that “one of the important factors I bring to the table is being an early Trump supporter and knowing Donald Trump and his family.”

Burns, who served as chairman of the Trump campaign’s youth coalition and as a delegate to the 2016 GOP presidential nominating convention, said that president has been very successful and Trump’s supporters “want somebody that they can believe in who’s going to go down there and help the president drain the swamp.”

Dr. Stewart Levenson of Hopkinton, a former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs regional director, said Trump has been “spot on.”

“Some Democrats are scheming to impeach our president,” Levenson said. “Why, because he isn’t a career politician. He is looking out for us and not them. Together we’re going to deny the Democrats this plot.”

Blankenbeker, Negron, Levenson and Burns, as well as New Boston’s Brian Belanger, Colebrook’s Gerard Beloin, and Nashua’s Jay Mercer, are all on the Sept. 11 Republican primary ballot in the 2nd District, which includes Concord and covers the western part of the state from the Massachusetts border up to the North County. The winner will face off against Kuster, a three-term congresswoman from Hopkinton, in November’s general election.

Here’s a closer look at the Republican candidates, including the five who took part in two recent GOP organized debates.

Lynne Blankenbeker

Blankenbeker was an active duty Air Force nurse from 1986-91. She was deployed to Oman and Kuwait during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After switching branches to the Navy, she treated those wounded in the Iraq War while stationed at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in Maryland. Later, she served as a combat nurse stationed in Afghanistan.

She’s currently a Navy reservist, drilling one weekend a month as a commanding officer of a 600-member medical unit in San Diego.

In between active duty tours, Blankenbeker won a state House of Representatives 2009 special election as a conservative in Concord, which is considered liberal territory. She won re-election to a full term in 2010.

The candidate has listed the partisan gridlock in Washington as a major reason she’s running for Congress.

“I had a front seat to the congressional dysfunction that was going on,” she said, spotlighting her tours of duty in Washington.

Blankenbeker also highlights her three-plus decades of health care experience.

“I’ve done health care policy. I’ve done health care law. I’ve done health care delivery. I’ve done health care regulation. I know a lot about health care,” she said.

She’s no fan of the national health care law commonly known as Obamacare, and she said if elected to Congress, she’d push for people to “buy their insurance across state lines so we can lower the cost of insurance.”

Blankenbeker joined her primary rivals at the most recent debate in calling for stricter policies and tougher enforcement to crack down on illegal immigration. And following Trump’s lead, she joined them in spotlighting the killing of 20-year old college student Mollie Tibbetts. Authorities in Iowa recently charged a man they say is an undocumented immigrant with the murder of college student Mollie Tibbetts.

Blankenbeker also argued that “we’ve got to support our president and build a wall. We need a physical wall, an electronic wall, boots on the ground.”

On the issue of climate change, 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.

While she joined her rivals at an August debate in Concord in criticizing the federal investigation into Russian tampering with the 2016 presidential election and any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow, she 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.

Steve Negron

Steve Negron is an Air Force veteran, serving as an intercontinental ballistic missile combat crew member in Missouri and at Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., before retiring as a major in 1998.

Negron’s lived in Nashua for nearly three decades, working in the defense industry for such contractors as Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. He is currently president and CEO of Integron LLC, an engineering firm.

He first ran for public office in 2016, winning a House seat in Nashua’s Ward 5.

Unlike his rivals, Negron’s language on the hot topic of illegal immigration is not as muscular. He’s highlighted that, “as the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, it’s very close to my heart where these immigration policies are. My grandfather came over here the right way. We had laws. We need to make sure we enforce those laws and get back to doing that.”

On health care, he’s said that “the first thing we have to do is get the government out of the health care business,” as he pushed for health savings accounts for small businesses.

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

Like his rivals, he takes aim at the Democratic incumbent, saying “I miss Ann Kuster and I want her home.”

And Negron, the only 2nd District GOP candidate to date to go up on the airwaves with TV ads, predicted that if he wins the primary, Kuster “has no idea what’s about to hit her.”

Stewart Levenson

The Hopkinton physician is a former New England Regional Director at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

He grabbed attention as one of several doctors who blew the whistle on substandard care at the Manchester VA facility in a 2017 Boston Globe expose. The report led to the ouster of several high-ranking officials and multiple federal investigations.

Levenson, who’s making his first run for political office, was critical of Kuster’s response to the problems at the VA and accused her of being dishonest about her role.

While all of the Republican candidates criticize the Democratic incumbent, Levenson seems to do it with the most frequency.

“Ann Kuster voted against tax cuts that put money in the pockets of 80 percent of the citizens of New Hampshire,” he highlighted at the Nashua debate.

And Levenson claimed that “it’s almost like she doesn’t want the New Hampshire economy to succeed.”

On immigration, he stands firmly behind a border wall.

“We will never correct this national fiasco of immigration policy while our borders remain porous. It’s actually more than a fiasco, it’s a tragedy. Look at the story of Mollie Tibbetts. She died because we allow violent criminals into our country.”

Levenson has spotlighted his “over 30 years experience in health care” when discussing the issue. He’s argued that “the main thing is we have to stop paying for health care on a cost-plus basis. Every extra test that’s ordered, every extra consultation that’s obtained, it delays the delivery of health care but more over it adds cost.”

When it comes to the environment, Levenson criticized Democrats, charging that “climate change is being used as an excuse for the redistribution of wealth.”

Bob Burns

Bob Burns jumped into the race at the beginning of June, long after the other major candidates in the race launched their campaigns.

Burns was born in Nashua, grew up in Bedford, and graduated from Keene State College.

Burns doesn’t live in the district. He’s a resident of Bedford, which is just over the border in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District. It’s legal but rare for congressional candidates not to live in the district for which they are running.

A longtime GOP activist, Burns defeated Democrat Chris Pappas for Hillsborough County treasurer in the 2010 election. But Pappas won the rematch in 2012, when the two ran for the Executive Council seat in District 4. Burns was narrowly defeated by Pappas in 2014.

Like his rivals, Burns is a strong defender of the Second Amendment and has Obamacare in his crosshairs. He’s advocated for opening “up the markets so people can get catastrophic health insurance from other states.”

On immigration, he’s called for “deporting illegal aliens, especially those who have been committing crimes that are already on our radar so we can avoid terrible tragedies like Mollie Tibbetts.”

And Burns added that “one thing that’s not being talked about a lot is the amount of people who are coming here on vacation to have what are called ‘anchor babies’ and that’s something that we do need to crack down on.”

Anchor baby is a term – considered by many to be derogatory – used to refer to children born in the United States to non-citizen parents that automatically become American citizens.

On climate change, Burns has 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.”

Brian Belanger

New Boston businessman Brian Belanger – who has a degree in commercial diving technologies – is making his first run for elective office.

Belanger, who took part in the GOP organized debates in Concord and Nashua, has repeatedly said his campaign’s top issue is representing and fighting for the people of the 2nd District.

Belanger said that Granite Staters “are looking for someone different. They don’t want the political machine.”

“I don’t have an expensive house, an expensive car, I go and live day by day just like everybody else in the Granite State,” Belanger said.

On health care, Belanger’s lamented the cost of pharmaceuticals. He’s argued that “the number one thing we need to do is get the lobbyists out of Washington.”

“Until we get rid of them we are going to keep spinning our wheels,” he added.

On energy, Belanger promotes hydro-electric power, saying it “would be a big thing for New Hampshire.”

And on climate change, he joined his rivals’ skepticism, saying “I don’t believe that the global warming thing is as big as they make it.”

Jay Mercer

Nashua’s Jay Mercer is a department head at NHTI and Rivier University and works as a physician’s assistant at three medical schools. Mercer’s making his second straight bid for the GOP nomination in the 2nd District.

Mercer’s said he running for Congress because he’s the “missing link between so many groups involved in health care. I can bring together veterans, students, people suffering through the opioid crisis, under Obamacare, and at the pharmacies.”

Gerard Beloin

Colebrook’s Gerard Beloin was born and raised on a dairy farm in northern New Hampshire. He earned his degree in zoology from Keene State College. After cutting timber and working part-time as a ski instructor, he started his own roofing business more than three decades ago.

Beloin has said he wants to serve in Congress to “clean up the swamp.”

At a debate this summer in Keene, he described taxpayers as slaves to the federal government.

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