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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Climate change divides GOP Senate hopefuls in Merrimack

MERRIMACK – Two Republicans in the race for U.S. Senate took sharply opposing views on the issue of climate change Wednesday night, with one calling it a proven fact and the other saying that no evidence exists that global warming is a man-made phenomenon.

Former state Sen. Jim Rubens and former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith were asked to discuss their views on climate change during a debate organized by the Merrimack Business Association at Merrimack Town Hall. ...

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MERRIMACK – Two Republicans in the race for U.S. Senate took sharply opposing views on the issue of climate change Wednesday night, with one calling it a proven fact and the other saying that no evidence exists that global warming is a man-made phenomenon.

Former state Sen. Jim Rubens and former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith were asked to discuss their views on climate change during a debate organized by the Merrimack Business Association at Merrimack Town Hall.

Rubens said he is the only Republican in the country seeking a Senate seat who acknowledges the science of climate change. While he advocated earlier in the campaign for a tax on carbon, Rubens said he abandoned the idea because it’s “dead on arrival politically.”

Instead, Rubens said he now favors eliminating all energy subsidies and allowing the free market to promote cleaner forms of energy.

That policy change drew criticism from Smith, who said his own views have remained consistent since he first took office in the 1990s. Smith said the country should be focused on finding ways to produce more energy.

“If there’s any warming, in my view, it’s not being caused by man,” he said.

The climate change discussion highlighted one of the sharpest contrasts between Rubens and Smith, who fielded questions on business topics from moderator Tom Young.

Wednesday’s debate brought together two of the most well-known GOP candidates in the primary race, which includes a field of 10 Republicans seeking to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in the fall.

Notably absent from Wednesday’s debate was former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, whose invitation to the event became a subject of controversy in the weeks leading up to the event.

Brown declined to participate, citing a scheduling conflict. He also was absent from an earlier debate in Bedford, leading to criticism from some of his opponents that Brown was avoiding interactions with the other GOP challengers.

Brown’s campaign moved to counter that charge before Wednesday’s event in Merrimack, announcing that Brown will participate in at least four GOP primary debates, including a forum on WMUR-TV’s “CloseUp” program Friday and a Sept. 4 event sponsored by WMUR and the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Brown also has agreed to participate in debates organized by the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council and “New Hampshire Today,” a program on radio station WGIR.

Nevertheless, the announcement didn’t blunt attacks from Smith and Rubens, who joined forces Wednesday to hammer Brown for his decision not to participate, making references to his recent visit to a Las Vegas conference organized by an investment firm.

“The bottom line is in order to have a debate on the issues, you’ve got to have the candidates, with all due respect,” Smith said.

The field of GOP contenders shrank by one last week when conservative activist Karen Testerman – who also was slated to attend Wednesday’s event – bowed out of the race and threw her support behind Smith.

Calling her decision a “heroic” act, Smith thanked Testerman and said he stands as the one “true conservative” remaining in the GOP primary.

After serving one term in the Senate and eight years in the U.S. House, Smith said he has shown a record of supporting conservative values, and knows how to work in Washington to defeat opponents on the left.

“We must be able to face these people, take them on one-by-one and defeat them,” he said. “Not accommodate them, defeat them.”

Rubens is running his first race since 2000 after a career in the New Hampshire Senate. He touted his accomplishments as a state lawmaker, including penning the legislation authorizing charter schools and helping to give towns the right to vote on issues on ballots rather than at town meetings.

Rubens said his legislative accomplishments came through bringing together different factions – a skill that will be required now to bring together the splintered groups within the Republican party.

“I did that by explaining the issue to people, uniting them, bringing them together,” he said.

Despite their differences, the two candidates staked out similar positions on a range of issues.

Both said they would advocate for repealing President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and replacing it with other measures that would continue some of the popular aspects of the bill, such as coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

Both said they would have voted against the energy efficiency legislation introduced by Shaheen in the Senate, known as the Shaheen-Portman Bill.

“It’s a typical example of an overreach of the federal government,” Smith said, explaining that the bill offered millions worth of taxpayer money to promote efficiency upgrades.

Both candidates said they would oppose a national Internet sales tax, and would support instituting a flat income tax as part of a reform of the country’s tax code.

Rubens called for measures that would help the country “repatriate” some $2.1 trillion worth of earnings from companies domiciled in the United States who record their earnings overseas, avoiding US taxes.

Smith said rather than taking punitive measures, he would offer amnesty to companies willing to move their earnings back inside the country as part of a tax code reform.

“Show them we want to give them the opportunity to produce more,” he said.

The Republican primary will be held Sept. 9.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).