1st District Dems gang up on front-runners

MANCHESTER (AP) – The crowded field of Democratic congressional hopefuls in New Hampshire’s 1st District took turns targeting the perceived front-runners at their latest forum Thursday night.

With 12 days until the primary, the 11 Democrats competing for their party’s nomination met at Manchester Community College. Along with six Republicans, they’re hoping to take the seat being left open by Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who isn’t seeking re-election.

From their opening statements onward, many of the Democrats criticized Executive Councilor Chris Pappas and Marine veteran Maura Sullivan, accusing them of not being progressive enough on health care and suggesting the money they’ve raised will make them beholden to special interests.

They’re not grassroots, they’re Astroturf,” said state Rep. Mindi Messmer. “New Hampshire citizens are my special interests.”

Answering a question about how to reduce the influence of money on politics, Portsmouth businessman Deaglan McEachern said voters could start by rejecting Sullivan, a newcomer to the state whom he accused of shopping around for a district in which to run.

“You guys have power to get money out of politics by not voting for her,” he said.

Sullivan emphasized that she isn’t taking money from corporate political action committees, and while she didn’t directly address the district shopping charge, said some people have told her it isn’t her time to run.

“I think women around the country are really, really tired of being told to wait their turn,” she said.

MacEachern said it was unlikely anyone told Sullivan she shouldn’t run because she’s a woman, given that the state is currently represented by the nation’s first all-female, all Democratic congressional delegation. He and others also blasted Pappas and Sullivan for not supporting universal health care in the form of a Medicare for all system.

Pappas said he believes health care should be a right, not a privilege, and that he supports universal health care as an ultimate goal. But he said his focus will be fighting the efforts to rollback the Affordable Care Act and supporting allowing businesses to buy into Medicare.