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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

GOP’s Guinta ousts Shea-Porter in NH 1st District

Associated Press

CONCORD (AP) — Republican Frank Guinta ousted Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District Tuesday after a campaign spent casting the two-term Democrat as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s spendthrift shadow.

Guinta, 40, the former mayor of Manchester, was dogged throughout the campaign by questions about his personal finances. But he kept the focus on the issues, contrasting his record of enacting Manchester’s first tax cut in a decade with what he called Shea-Porter’s failure to protect small businesses.

Guinta also emphasized his opposition to the national health care overhaul legislation and the federal stimulus package Shea-Porter unabashedly supported.

Four years ago, voter dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush and anti-war sentiment helped Shea-Porter pull an upset win over Republican Rep. Jeb Bradley. But this year, Shea-Porter found herself swept out by the nation’s anti-incumbent mood.

Guinta got into the race 18 months ago and built a sizable organization that helped him win a six-way primary in September. In both the primary and general election, he promoted himself as someone who would cut spending and bring fiscal discipline to Washington while trying to portray Shea-Porter as Pelosi’s evil twin.

He described his opponents philosophy as “government has to solve every problem that exists,” and said, “That’s the exact thinking that has gotten us into the mess we’re in right now in this country.”

But Guinta’s claim that Shea-Porter was “embarrassed” by her record often was at odds with her willingness to defend her votes on the most controversial issues: the stimulus funding and health care. She said the economy would be much worse without the stimulus money, and said while the health care bill Guinta would like to see repealed wasn’t perfect, it brought much-needed reform.

Shea-Porter criticized Guinta for pushing through a tax cut as mayor at the expense of Manchester’s schools, police force and infrastructure, while he accused her of failing taxpayers and small businesses by voting to have Congress adjourn without extending tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration.

During one debate, Guinta asked Shea-Porter if she would vote to re-elect Pelosi as speaker if Democrats hold the House. After some prodding, she said, “Yes, I would.”

Like Guinta, Shea-Porter also spoke often about spending, but she zeroed in on her opponent’s personal finances, repeatedly grilling him about how he was able to loan his campaign $355,000. Guinta has faced questions about the money since he amended a disclosure form last summer to add assets of between $250,000 and $500,000. His rivals during the Republican primary first raised the issue and Democrats picked up where they left off.

Guinta flatly denied that he has accepted illegal donations and said he and his wife saved the money during the “approximately 20 years” he and his wife worked in the private sector before he was elected mayor in 2005, at age 35.

Libertarian Philip Hodson of Manchester also was on the ballot.