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  • Former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte attends at a town hall meeting in Nashua, N.H., Saturday, March 13, 2010. Sen. John McCain is back in New Hampshire to campaign for fellow Republican Kelly Ayotte. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, and former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, talk before a town hall meeting in Nashua, N.H., Saturday, March 13, 2010. McCain is campaigning for fellow Republican Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., reacts to a standing ovation during a town hall meeting with Kelly Ayotte, not shown, in Nashua, N.H., Saturday, March 13, 2010. McCain is back in New Hampshire to campaign for fellow Republican Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte, a former state attorney general, is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, and former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, greet the crowd at a town hall meeting in Nashua, N.H., Saturday, March 13, 2010. McCain is campaigning for fellow Republican Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte, a former state attorney general, is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, speaks at a town hall meeting in Nashua, N.H., Saturday, March 13, 2010. Former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, left, listens. McCain is back in New Hampshire to campaign for fellow Republican Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte, a former state attorney general, is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
  • WWII veteran James MacMillan, 86, of Nashua, holds up his hand to ask a question during the town hall meeting with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., back right, and former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, back left, in Nashua, N.H., Saturday, March 13, 2010. McCain is campaigning for fellow Republican Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte, a former state attorney general, is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
Sunday, March 14, 2010

McCain tackles health care, spending at forum

NASHUA – Health care reform and government spending were on the minds of those who turned out for a town hall meeting with Sen. John McCain, who was visiting New Hampshire to support U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte.

Ayotte, a Republican and Nashua native, is seeking the seat Sen. Judd Gregg will vacate at the end of this term.

Before fielding questions from the audience Saturday morning, McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, said Ayotte, New Hampshire’s former attorney general, is the right person for the job.

“She believes in law and order, she understands fiscal responsibility,” the senior senator from Arizona said of Ayotte.

McCain and Ayotte fielded about a dozen questions from attendees, many of whom expressed concerns about President Barack Obama’s health care reform legislation.

“The government shouldn’t be in the health care business at all,” Merrimack resident Anita Hinkle said.

When asked by Dave Margerum, of Nashua, whether there was anything Republicans could do to overturn the health care legislation if passed, McCain pledged that Republicans would immediately launch a nationwide movement for repeal.

McCain called the Democrats’ health care legislation a “train wreck” that is “full of budget gimmicks and full of assumptions that can’t be realized.” McCain also criticized Democrats for adding trillions to the national deficit, which he said would increase by another $2.5 trillion under the current health care proposal.

“We’ve committed generational theft on our children and grandchildren,” McCain said.

Ayotte criticized Democrats for offering new government programs and increased spending as their own solutions to the country’s problems.

“What they fail to understand is the strength of our country doesn’t come from our government, you all know it comes from all of you,” she said. “We need to make sure we don’t put new mandates on small businesses like they’re trying to do with this government takeover of the health care system.”

Ayotte is facing three challengers in her bid for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat. Congressman Paul Hodes is seeking the Democratic nomination.

“I have a fresh perspective,” Ayotte said after the town hall meeting had concluded, carrying her son, Jacob. “I’m not a politician. I’ve never run for office before.”

About 250 people attended the event, which was held at Pennichuck Middle School.

McCain won the New Hampshire primary in 2008, but lost the election to Barack Obama. In his first visit to New Hampshire since the election, McCain pledged to do everything in his power to ensure New Hampshire retains its first-in-the-nation primary status.

“You can’t buy an election in New Hampshire,” McCain said. “You can only do it by being with the people, of the people, and frankly with the kind of encounters that town hall meeting is all about.”

McCain is in a race to save his own seat in the Senate. He is facing off against former Arizona congressman J.D. Hayworth in the race for the Republican nomination.

During the forum, Ayotte stressed the importance of stronger national security and said that while she has faith in the justice system, military tribunals are the appropriate forum to try accused terrorists.

“Our civilian court system was not set up to try enemies of our country,” Ayotte said. “No terrorist should ever hear the words, ‘You have the right to remain silent.’ ”

When asked what ideas she had for focusing on job creation, Ayotte said she supports to use of unspent stimulus money to pay for a reduction in payroll taxes. The proposal was put forward by recently-elected Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass. Ayotte added that it is important to make sure small businesses have access to credit.

Responding to a question about what is being done to control illegal immigration, McCain criticized Obama for proposing a budget for 2011 that reduces the number of border patrol agents.

“That is unacceptable,” McCain said.

Bedford residents Rick and Mary Jo Jansson were among those who attended Saturday’s town hall meeting. Rick Jansson said they have attended several of Ayotte’s events, including her announcement that she was running for the Senate.

“It’s not so much what she’s saying, it’s what the other guys are doing,” he said, when asked why he was supporting Ayotte.

Jansson said he is looking for a Senator to stand up to the government takeover of health care.

“I’m looking for her to listen to constituents,” Jansson said. “I think she’ll bring that New Hampshire spirit to the Senate.”

Not everyone was happy with the answers they received.

Farrell Seiler, of Littleton, asked McCain and Ayotte for their thoughts on whether climate change is being caused by human activity.

“It’s an inexact science. There’s been more and more questioning about conclusions that have been reached,” said McCain, who stressed the importance of focusing on the creation of nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gases.

Afterward, Seiler, who believes human activity is causing climate change and identifies himself as an independent, said McCain and Ayotte both dodged his question.

“I didn’t get an answer,” Seiler said. “I just got a lot of talking points.”

Michael Brindley can be reached at 594-6426 or mbrindley@nashuatelegraph.com.