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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guinta, Shea-Porter voice vast policy differences in TV debate

DERRY – Maintaining the contentious tone of the 1st District race, U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta and former congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter dispensed with the pleasantries Tuesday night in a debate at WBIN-TV.

Skipping the customary introductory statements, the two challengers dove straight into the debate, offering differing takes on taxes, health care, energy and environmental policy, among other issues. ...

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DERRY – Maintaining the contentious tone of the 1st District race, U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta and former congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter dispensed with the pleasantries Tuesday night in a debate at WBIN-TV.

Skipping the customary introductory statements, the two challengers dove straight into the debate, offering differing takes on taxes, health care, energy and environmental policy, among other issues.

About the only issue the two candidates agreed upon over the hourlong session was the vast difference between them.

“We couldn’t have a clearer option for who is going to serve you in the House of Representatives,” Guinta, the sitting congressman and former Manchester mayor, said as the debate came to a close.

“You have to believe in this … You have to believe in a government role,” Shea-Porter countered, criticizing her opponent for wanting to eliminate the federal Environmental Protection Agency. “I think there’s a tremendous difference between you and I on that issue.”

To open the debate, the two candidates, who faced off in the 2010 election, took different stances on federal tax policy.

Guinta, who unseated Shea-Porter after two terms in office, offered support for extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all income brackets, “so we can give small-business owners the certainty they need relative to tax policy.”

But, Shea-Porter disagreed, echoing President Barack Obama’s call to rescind the tax rates on the upper income classes.

“We need to have tax cuts for everybody under the first $300,000,” she said. “But after that, we need the tax cuts to end.”

On health care, the two opponents drew a clear line between them.

Shea-Porter, who voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act during her time in office, lauded the benefits of the health care law, including eliminating the prescription drug “doughnut hole” for seniors and requiring insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions.

“There’s so much good in this bill,” she said. “We’ll continue to work on that, but this is a good bill.”

Meanwhile, Guinta offered his support for repealing the law and encouraging more transparency in medical costs to keep rates down.

“Health care is the only thing we purchase where we don’t know the price,” he said. “Transparency is the solution to this problem.”

On the issue of energy, both candidates expressed support for an “all-of-the-above” policy. But, they differed in what such a policy would include.

Guinta suggested expanding drilling for the Keystone Pipeline to expand oil access and better control prices.

“You’re talking about a multibillion dollar operation,” he said. “You’re talking about 20,000 jobs immediately.”

But, Shea-Porter suggested a policy that moved away from oil as the primary energy source. She criticized her opponent for supporting continued subsidies to big oil companies and suggested investing more, instead, on wind, solar and other alternative sources.

“Yes, we can use gas; we can use oil. We don’t have a choice at this point. But, looking in the future … why would we be enriching our enemies being dependent on their oil?” Shea-Porter asked. “That’s not the way to solve an energy crisis.”

Perhaps the most heated moment in the debate came in discussion of the recent attacks on the American embassy in Libya.

Shea-Porter suggested that the country needs to continue to work with Libya and other Arab nations to achieve democracy. But, that “for democracy to flourish, it’s going to be a bumpy road there.”

Guinta then took exception to his opponent’s characterization of the embassy attack.

“I wouldn’t call death of four Americans a bumpy road. That does a disservice to Americans,” he said.

“I said democracy (is a bumpy road), not the disaster that befell our ambassador,” Shea-Porter countered. “It’s a terrible tragedy.”

To close the debate, moderator Charlie Sherman, a former WMUR-TV personality, introduced a lighter question about the government’s funding of Big Bird and public television. But, the candidates didn’t take the bait, using the question to challenge each other’s views of government.

“We have to start looking at the budget in the sense of, are we going to borrow money for every program?” Guinta said, repeating the views expressed by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in last week’s presidential debate.

“It’s interesting to me that my opponent would like to give the leases for free (to oil companies), and yet is going basically after public television,” Shea-Porter countered. “It just doesn’t make any sense at all.”

The debate was the second of three consecutive in the television station’s “Debate Week.” On Monday, gubernatorial challengers Maggie Hassan and Ovide Lamontagne took part. On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Charles Bass and Democratic challenger Ann McLane Kuster, candidates in the 2nd Congressional District, are debating at 8 p.m.

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or jberry@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Berry on Twitter (Telegraph_JakeB).