N.H.’s 2nd District primary debate: Flanagan, Lawrence echo call for National Guard at Mass.-N.H. border

  • Flanagan

  • Former Republican state Rep. Jim Lawrence is seen before a televised debate for the 2nd Congressional District at WMUR, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 in Manchester, N.H. The winner of next week's state primary will face U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, a Democrat seeking a second term.(AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

Monitor staff
Published: 8/17/2016 11:34:32 PM

Just two of the seven Republicans in the race for 2nd Congressional District showed up to a radio debate at WGIR in Manchester on Wednesday morning to discuss policy points ranging from the economy to national security.

Not much separates state Rep. Jack Flanagan of Brookline and former state representative Jim Lawrence of Hudson on the issues; both men said cutting government spending and business taxes and making Social Security solvent would be a top priority if they were elected to Congress.

“We need to get our fiscal house in order, along with a line item veto,” Flanagan said. “We’ve got to get the fat out of the budget.”

Lawrence echoed that point.

“A balanced budget amendment would be very high on my list of bills to sponsor initially,” he said.

Lawrence and Flanagan are just two of the seven candidates running for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Other candidates include Pelham state Rep. Eric Estevez, Walter Kelly of Lancaster, Andy Martin of Manchester, Jay Mercer of Nashua and Casey Newell of Deerfield. The winner of the primary would go on to face Democratic incumbent Rep. Annie Kuster.

Both Flanagan and Lawrence touted their records in the New Hampshire House of Representatives; Flanagan said he was proud to have been part of a Legislature that passed the first business tax cuts the state has seen in decades.

Both also said they planned to vote for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in November because their values align closer with his than those of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“I don’t think anyone’s accused Donald Trump of being a liar,” Lawrence said. “I think that people think he’s too honest.”

The candidates had different responses when asked if New Hampshire dealt with its opioid crisis appropriately. While Flanagan said he thought the legislature had passed funding to deal with preventing more deaths “on time,” Lawrence disagreed.

“We were definitely behind the eight-ball on this,” he said. “We had a full-blown crisis before anyone reacted.”

Both men supported the idea of using military power to stop the flow of drugs into New Hampshire. Both voiced approval of an idea recently floated by Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeanie Forrester to send the state’s National Guard to patrol the United States’ northern and southern border, as well as the border between New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

However, Flanagan stopped short of saying the United States should send troops into Mexico to stop the drug cartels. After debate moderator Jack Heath asked if the United States should pursue military action against the country, Flanagan said he wouldn’t go that far.

“That’s a sovereignty issue,” he said, adding he would want the United States to coordinate drug control efforts with Mexico.

Lawrence said his first priority in addressing the drug crisis would be to seal the United States’s southern border, monitor it electronically and send military personnel to guard it.

“This is a security issue,” he said. “We absolutely have to do that to keep our citizens safe.”

However, Lawrence doesn’t advocate using the National Guard to fight the drug war in New Hampshire.

Both men said they would work across the aisle to ensure funding for treatment and prevention is received by New Hampshire towns and cities embroiled in the drug crisis. Congress recently failed to pass emergency funding for a Zika vaccine, which resulted in drug treatment and prevention funds being diverted to vaccine research.

“I would be an advocate of making sure that local officials have the resources they need to fight this drug war,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence specifically mentioned congressional gridlock and inaction as a reason for his run, and both men said they plan to work in a bipartisan way if elected to the U.S. House.

“If the legislation makes sense, if it’s constitutional and there aren’t unintended consequences . . . I’m in,” Flanagan said.

Lawrence said he believes Democrats and Republicans ultimately have the same overarching goals of making the country safer and stronger.

“I’m willing to work with anyone,” he said. “We can’t solve problems in Congress as one lone voice, it’s going to take a coalition working together to solve problems.”

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