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Thursday, July 24, 2014

1st District GOP hopefuls split over Patriot Act, raising gas taxes

MANCHESTER – Former Congressman Frank Guinta, of Manchester, and businessman Dan Innis, of Portsmouth, sparred Wednesday over the federal Patriot Act, raising gas taxes and career politicians during the first broadcast debate of Republican candidates in the 1st Congressional District.

Seabrook’s Brendan Kelly promoted his own low-budget, faith-based campaign during the one-hour event at the WGIR-AM radio studios in Manchester. ...

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MANCHESTER – Former Congressman Frank Guinta, of Manchester, and businessman Dan Innis, of Portsmouth, sparred Wednesday over the federal Patriot Act, raising gas taxes and career politicians during the first broadcast debate of Republican candidates in the 1st Congressional District.

Seabrook’s Brendan Kelly promoted his own low-budget, faith-based campaign during the one-hour event at the WGIR-AM radio studios in Manchester.

Innis, seeking to become the first openly gay person elected to major office in the state, also predicted that strong opposition of GOP leaders to same-sex marriage would melt away over time.

“I would be real surprised if five years from now we are still talking about this,” said Innis, a former University of New Hampshire business school dean. “I don’t think we will be.”

Guinta said he won’t try to lobby state and national GOP leaders to change the party platform that includes support only for heterosexual marriage.

“I think most of us would like the government to leave us alone,” Guinta said.

A moment later, Guinta added, “As far as the party platform, that is up to the platform committee of the Republican National Committee.”

The winner of the Sept. 9 GOP primary will face three-term Democratic Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, of Rochester.

If Guinta wins the primary, it would be their third face-off.

Guinta beat then-
incumbent Shea-Porter in 2010, only to lose to her two years later.

The 1st District includes the towns of Merrimack, Bedford and Londonderry.

Innis, Guinta and Kelly faced questions on party loyalty.

In 2008, Innis voted in the Democratic presidential primary, and four years later, he endorsed Democratic candidate for governor Jackie Cilley, of Barrington.

“I have supported the principles of the party from the very beginning. I believe in small government, low taxes and keeping government out of our lives,” Innis said.

During his two-year term in Congress, Guinta said he wasn’t a pawn of GOP leaders.

Most in the GOP establishment already have lined up behind Guinta in this race, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former Gov. Craig Benson.

As evidence of independence, Guinta cited a non-binding June 2011 vote to end military operations around Libya that GOP congressional leaders and President Barack Obama had supported.

“I have no problem breaking with the leadership at any time when New Hampshire is right and the leadership is wrong,” Guinta said.

Kelly was the Libertarian Party nominee for the seat in 2012 and got 4 percent of the vote but decided to join the GOP.

“I look at the debt as a symptom,” Kelly said explaining his party change. “The problem is we have turned our back on God and our ability to take care of our fellow man.”

Innis criticized Guinta’s support of the Patriot Act and said it’s led to the invasion of privacy of innocent Americans.

“They are spying on us on a regular basis,” Innis said.

Guinta said the Patriot Act was necessary after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, though he faulted Obama with extending U.S. surveillance through executive orders.

“You either stand for the terrorists or you stand for freedom and protecting Americans,” Guinta said.

Innis said he might support raising the federal gasoline tax to bail out the highway fund and panned the “short-term fix” pending in Congress that instead would borrow money from government pensions.

“Ideally, we don’t raise the gas tax, but maybe we need some adjustment,” Innis said. “We have to look at this creatively.”

Guinta opposed any gas tax increase and favored a plan for road and bridge spending to earmark revenue from leases on land being explored for gas and oil reserves.

“I think people feel we are taxed enough,” Guinta said.

Innis has called Guinta a career politician, noting that Guinta has been a congressman and former mayor, alderman and congressional aide.

“I am saying a big part of the dysfunction in Washington is driven by people being down there too long,” Innis said without mentioning Guinta by name.

Guinta said he’s been motivated by public service and not personal ambition. Innis should make his own case to GOP primary voters, Guinta said.

“I understand that Dan Innis has to beat me up somehow. I get that. He has to somehow try to knock me down,” Guinta said. “I would say people need to stand on their merits.”

Everett Jabour, of Barrington, also will be on the GOP primary ballot but was not at the debate.

A Democratic Party spokesman said the GOP candidates offered solutions that don’t help working families.

“This morning’s debate was a classic example of out-of-touch Republicans repeating unpopular conservative talking points rather than talking about the issues that Granite Staters care about, like promoting affordable, quality health care, raising the minimum wage, protecting women’s health or pushing for ensuring equal pay,” said spokesman Bryan Lesswing.

The three major Republican candidates in the Second Congressional District – Gary Lambert, of Nashua; Marilinda Garcia, of Salem; and Jim Lawrence, of Hudson – will debate at WGIR next Wednesday.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at
321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).