On the Trail: New congressional candidate spotlights border, inflation, overseas conflicts

Vikram Mansharamani

Vikram Mansharamani

By PAUL STEINHAUSER

For the Monitor

Published: 04-12-2024 1:37 PM

Modified: 04-12-2024 3:21 PM


Vikram Mansharamani charges that “Washington D.C. is completely dysfunctional,” but he’s hoping voters send him there to help fix the gridlock.

Mansharamani, a businessman, entrepreneur, and author who made an unsuccessful run for the 2022 Republican U.S. Senate nomination, says that dysfunction is a main reason why this week he launched a campaign for the U.S. House in New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District in the race to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster.

“I really feel compelled that we need proper representation down in Washington D.C.,” Mansharamani emphasized in an interview with the Monitor.

The 50-year-old Mansharamani, who lives in Lincoln with his wife and children, was a lecturer for five years at Harvard University, and before that Yale University. He’s also served as an adviser to several Fortune 500 companies, and is an author several times over, most recently for “The Making of a Generalist: An Independent Thinker Finds Unconventional Success in an Uncertain World.”

Mansharamani spotlights three areas that he wants to focus on in Congress.

The first he listed is America’s southern border with Mexico.

“We need a border and more importantly we need an immigration policy,” he said. “A tall wall, i.e. a secure border, but a wide gate. An immigration policy that is welcoming and brings the world’s most ambitious entrepreneurial builders to this country. I think that something we should seek.

In a state and a congressional district that shares a border with Canada, he added that “the southern border gets all the attention. The norther border is equally important.”

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“We are seeing rapidly rising numbers of illegal migrants crossing into the United State via the northern border. That is alarming,” he said. “We have to address that as well.”

Mansharamani also cited inflation, which is once again on the rise, according to new U.S. Labor Department statistics released this week.

“Everyone is feeling what I call the inflation tax. Inflation is a tax on the poor, working class, and those who are on fixed incomes. Period,” he said. “Inflation has been caused by many things, mostly important, out of control spending, out of control borrowing, and out of control handouts from Washington D.C.”

Mansharamani took aim at the Inflation Reduction Act, one of President Joe Biden’s top domestic priorities, deriding it as the “the inflation generation act.” He also targeted the president’s student debt loan forgiveness push. “You can call it relief. I call it a handout,” he argued.

Unlike many in the GOP who are strong supporters of former President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda, Mansharamani is more tempered when it comes to U.S. commitments overseas.

“America First, but not alone. We stand with our allies. We provide support for countries like Ukraine but we do not provide blank checks without accountability. In this battle with Russia, we do not want to let Putin win,” he said.

Pointing to Israel’s war in Gaza with Hamas, Mansharamani said the country should stand with Israel.

“That does not mean we shouldn’t have some compassion and create a humanitarian corridor or help provide food, water, and medicine to those that fleeing conflict, but we do not tell Israel what to do,” he said. “Israel is an ally. We support them.”

He has concerns about other global powers beyond Russia.

“I’m worried about what China’s going to do. I’m worried what China’s going to do with Taiwan. I’m watching what’s happening in Venezuela with the border with Guyana very carefully because that might have an impact on oil markets,” he added.

He stressed that global issues are of local concern.

“A lot of these foreign affairs that seem distant and perhaps irrelevant have connections back to the lives of ordinary Granite Staters,” he said.

On abortion, a combustible issue on the minds of many Granite State voters, Mansharamani reiterated that he supports current New Hampshire law, which bans abortion after 24 weeks except when the mother’s health is in danger, or a fatal fetal anomaly is present.

“I agree with the New Hampshire law. I believe that we should allow women to have choice and in New Hampshire, the citizens have decided 24 weeks,” he said.

In the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Mansharamani was a top New Hampshire supporter of Nikki Haley. The former two-term South Carolina governor who later served as ambassador to the United Nations in then-President Donald Trump’s administration was the last rival to Trump before dropping out of the race early last month. Trump is now the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, as he makes his third straight White House run.

“Absolutely, I’m OK with him at the top of the ticket,” Mansharamani said of Trump.

But when asked if he would campaign alongside Trump, Mansharamani remained open-ended.

“Let’s see if I’m the nominee first,” he said. “I’m focused on becoming the nominee.”

He also emphasized that voters want someone “who actually looks beyond this partisan baloney.”

Mansharamani said he’s taking lessons learned from his 2022 Senate campaign and applying them to his burgeoning congressional run in the Second District, which includes Concord and many of the capital city’s surrounding communities.

“One of the first things I learned that’s super important is listening to the voters. I have a lot of ideas. I’d like to share those ideas. But what’s more important is hearing the Second Congressional District citizens want,” he said.

And he pledged to hold town halls to take questions from voters and listen.

Mansharamani will face off for the GOP congressional nomination against Lily Tang Williams, who is making her second straight run. A native of China and an outspoken critic of Chinese communism, she grabbed 25% of the vote two years ago in the GOP primary. Air Force veteran and longtime Republican activist Hillary Seeger has also declared her candidacy.

Bob Burns, a former Hillsborough County treasurer and 2018 congressional candidate who won the 2022 Republican nomination in the Second District before losing to Kuster by 12 points in the general election, announced recently that he would forgo another congressional bid and instead, he would run for the newly open seat on New Hampshire’s five-member Executive Council.

Former Keene Mayor George Hansel, who came in second to Burns in the 2022 GOP congressional primary in the Second District, is mulling a second straight run.

“I’m doing some research. I’m talking to people. I’m making a trip down to DC in a couple of weeks to better understand how a Republican member of Congress from New England is going to be received and what he can actually get done. That’s where I’m at,” he told the Monitor last week.

A handful of lesser-known Republicans have either announced they’re running or are mulling bids.

Colin Van Ostern, who worked as Kuster’s campaign manager in 2010 in her first run for Congress, and who later won two terms as a New Hampshire executive councilor before winning the 2016 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, announced his bid the day after Kuster’s retirement announcement.

Earlier this week Kuster endorsed Van Ostern.

Maggie Goodlander, a top Biden administration lawyer at the U.S. Justice Department who served as a deputy assistant attorney general, has been reaching out to Democratic politicians and leaders in the Granite State, Democratic sources confirmed to Monitor. Goodlander, a New Hampshire native, is married to U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Democratic state Sen. Becky Whitley of Hopkinton recently launched an exploratory committee. And former executive councilor and 2020 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andru Volinsky is also mulling a bid.