On the trail: Blankenbeker launches 2020 congressional bid, Gabbard accuses Dems of election rigging

  • PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor PAUL STEINHAUSER / For the Monitor

  • Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard stopped by Post and Beam Brewing on Friday to talk with voters and to appear on a local podcast. Gabbard also campaigned in Jaffrey the night before. March 22, 2019. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

For the Monitor
Published: 10/10/2019 5:59:01 PM
Modified: 10/10/2019 5:58:50 PM

Hours before arriving in New Hampshire for a three-day campaign swing, Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard created a firestorm by announcing she may boycott next Tuesday’s presidential nomination debate.

The congresswoman from Hawaii and Iraq War veteran accused the Democratic National Committee and the national media of “rigging” the primary battle against many of the lower tier candidates and political outsiders running for the nomination.

“I am seriously considering boycotting October 15 debate to bring attention to DNC/corporate media’s effort to rig 2020 primary,” she tweeted on Thursday.

In an accompanying video, Gabbard pointed to what she called “arbitrary” and non-transparent requirements to qualify for the debates and she argued Democratic Party leaders “are trying to hijack the entire election process.”

“In order to bring attention to this serious threat to our democracy, and ensure your voice is heard, I am giving serious consideration to boycotting the next debate on October 15th,” she added.

Gabbard said she’d decide in the coming days whether she’ll skip the debate, which could prove a point but also cost her own campaign valuable air time before the nation’s voters.

There’s been a chorus of criticism for months by many of the lower-tier candidates over the debate thresholds, which prevent many in the record-setting field of White House hopefuls – which topped out at roughly 25 contenders this summer – from making the debate stage.

Gabbard – who for months has been quite vocal in her criticism of the DNC and their criteria, qualified for the first two rounds of debates, held in late June and late July. But she failed to make the cut for last month’s third-round showdown.

Gabbard qualified for next week’s debate, which will be held in Ohio. Twelve of the remaining 18 Democratic presidential candidates made the cut.

The DNC has been raising the thresholds to qualify for the ensuing rounds of debates. To make the stage for the November debate, candidates must receive 165,000 campaign contributions from unique donors and hit at least 3% in four polls approved by the DNC. Only eight candidates – to date – have qualified, and Gabbard is not one of them.

The winnowing of the field by the DNC has been criticized in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, as well as in the three other early-voting primary and caucus states. Activists argue that the job of narrowing the field belongs to the voters in the early states rather than with national party leaders.

Gabbard emphasized that “the DNC and corporate media are rigging the election…against the American people in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada.”

2nd time for Blankenbeker

It’s take-two for Lynne Blankenbeker.

The former state representative from Concord who served for decades as a combat nurse in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy on Thursday announced her second straight Republican primary run in New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District, in hopes of taking on Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster next year.

Blankenbeker – a captain in the Navy reserves – spotlighted her support for President Donald Trump in a statement and video announcing her candidacy.

“I will support President Trump to deliver real solutions to fix our broken healthcare system, stop illegal immigration, protect our second amendment rights, and ensure our military has the resources needed to keep America safe because it’s time we elect a Congresswoman who will fight for New Hampshire,” she said.

Blankenbeker came in third in last year’s GOP congressional primary, which was won by Air Force veteran and former state Rep. Steve Negron. The Nashua businessman ended up losing to Kuster by 14 percentage points in the 2018 general election.

“Last time we ran, I learned how dirty politics can be,” Blankenbeker noted in an interview with the Monitor. “We’re prepared this time.”

“There were attacks against me as far as ‘combat proven,’” she said, referring to a slogan she used during her first congressional run.

And pointing to Negron, she said, “It’s disappointing that another veteran would come after a veteran.”

Negron, who retired as a major in the U.S. Air Force after 15 years of military service where he worked as an intercontinental ballistic missile combat crew member in Missouri and at Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., launched his second bid for Congress earlier this year.

“There would never be any comment from me that denigrates any veteran, ever,” he told the Monitor.

But Negron acknowledged that some Army combat veterans who were supporting his 2018 congressional bid “took some umbrage at her sign, but it wasn’t my campaign. It wasn’t me clearly. And I think that’s what Lynne is referring to.”

Negron also told the Monitor that he’s being endorsed by state Rep. Al Baldasaro – a U.S. Marine veteran and state co-chair of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Baldasaro backed Blankenbeker in the 2018 primary race.

In her campaign video, Blankenbeker targeted Kuster – the Hopkinton Democrat who’s running next year for a fifth two-year term representing the 2nd district, which covers the western and far northern parts of New Hampshire, stretching from Nashua and Keene north to the Canadian border.

She described Kuster as a “radical liberal” who’s allied with progressive freshman congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and who’s admitted she’s “scared” of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who’s led the House Democrats for 16 years.

The Blankenbeker video includes a clip from a 60 Minutes segment with Kuster saying that Pelosi’s “the first person in my life that has scared the heck out of me.”

Blankenbeker told the Monitor that “we have a congresswoman who openly admits that she runs and hides from Nancy Pelosi, that she’s afraid. And we deserve better than that.”

Asked about the House impeachment inquiry into the president, Blankenbeker joined the president and other Trump supporters in calling it a “witch hunt.”

“I think our president was nothing short of transparent when he released transcripts of conversations that he had with other world leaders,” she said. “There was nothing that I saw in there that would rise to the level of impeachment.”

Coming this weekend

Gabbard campaigns in the capital region on Saturday, holding a 4:30pm town hall at New England College in Henniker.

As the Monitor reported earlier this week, Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts will campaign for Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Hopkinton on Saturday.

Clark – who’s represented Massachusetts’ fifth district since 2013, will headline a “Women with Warren” conversation and canvass lunch at Noon. The address for the event is 19 Ridgewood Road in Hopkinton.

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