inside sources print logo
Get up to date New Hampshire news in your inbox

Candidates Debate Abortion, 2020 Election in NH-01 GOP Primary Debate

The five GOP candidates running for the chance to take on Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas this fall took to the stage Thursday night, sparring over election integrity, abortion, and foreign policy. 

The crowded conservative field of Karoline Leavitt, Matt Mowers, Gail Huff Brown, Tim Baxter, and Russell Prescott largely agree on the issues.  But that didn’t stop Huff Brown from going on the attack first.

In answering a question on abortion considering the U. S. Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs case, which gives the authority back to states, Huff Brown targeted Leavitt and accused her of not being pro-life. Leavitt has just answered that she supports New Hampshire’s 24-week ban on abortion.

(CREDIT: Alan Glassman)

“You can’t be pro-life and support the law in New Hampshire,” Huff Brown said.

“I am pro-life, and I do support the law in New Hampshire,” Leavitt responded, before turning the tables. “So, what are you?”

Huff Brown declined to answer.

Huff Brown also went after Mowers over voting twice during the 2016 presidential primaries, once in New Hampshire and again later in New Jersey.

“We need to talk about election integrity. We have one person up here who voted twice. That’s not election integrity,” she said.

Mowers hit back, saying an investigation by New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella cleared him of any wrongdoing and accused Huff Brown of using Democratic talking points.

“Gail, that’s just silly stuff. I know you’re new to this state, maybe you didn’t know the rules,” Mowers said.

The candidates again disagreed on aid to Ukraine, with Mowers and Prescott coming out in full favor of helping Ukraine fight Russia’s invasion, though both said the money needs to be accounted for.

“We should absolutely support Ukraine, but we need to verify the money is actually going to the crisis,” Prescott said.

Leavitt and Baxter opposed sending money to Ukraine. Huff Brown was unclear on her position.

Former President Donald Trump loomed large in the debate, as both Mowers and Leavitt worked for his administration. Mowers touted his position in the State Department while Leavitt made frequent mention of her job in the White House Press Office. Huff Brown also claimed to have worked for Trump. Her husband, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, served as Trump’s ambassador to New Zealand.

None of the candidates were willing to say outright that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Baxter cited the debunked conspiracy theory movie “2,000 Mules” and said all the individual state elections need to be audited. The other candidates said there needs to be a review or audit of the election process. It was Leavitt who went furthest, saying Biden was not elected in 2020.

“The 2020 election was stolen and there is no way Joe Biden legitimately won 81 million votes,” she said.

The audience at the event hall at the Saint Anselm Institute for Politics was full of campaign aides, as well as supporters, friends, and family of the candidates. Linda Chard came out to support Baxter, saying he has the youth, energy, and ideals needed to win.

“One hundred percent because of his proven, conservative voting record,” Chard said.

Chard would not commit to a second choice if Baxter does not win the primary, saying she is not impressed with the other candidates.

State Sen. Bill Gannon (R-Sandown) came out to support Mowers, who he sees as the best conservative to win.

“Matt is young, energetic, has great ideas, and has experience in Washington,” Gannon said.

Gannon was impressed with the overall slate on the debate stage, saying he could support Huff Brown or Prescott as second choices, but he was disappointed in their answer on the 2020 election.

“I was unhappy that no one would say Joe Biden got the most votes,” Gannon said.

Playing into election conspiracy theories will only hurt Republicans in the fall, Gannon said. While he voted for Trump, Gannon said the former president did lose the election and it is now time for the GOP to move on.

Scott Brown said all the candidates put in a good effort Thursday night.

“They all did really well, everyone up there is qualified,” Brown said.

He took exception, however, to Mowers’ jab at his wife, implying that she recently moved to New Hampshire.

“She’s been a property owner and taxpayer in New Hampshire for 30 years, almost as long as he’s been alive. He’s been here what? Four months?”

Scott Brown said Prescott is his second choice.

“He’s just a good guy,” he said.

The debate can be streamed on NH Journal’s Facebook page 

 

NH Law Not Impacted by SCOTUS Ruling, But NHDems Still Vow to Fight

New Hampshire’s elected officials responded with anger and outrage to the news of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision, sending the regulation of abortion back to the states and the people. New Hampshire Democrats promised to fight. 

“I am angry and heartbroken by today’s Supreme Court decision. We knew this was coming, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Elections have consequences, and I will never stop fighting for access to abortion and a woman’s right to choose,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said on Twitter.

Sen. Maggie Hassan called the ruling a “radical” decision.

“The Supreme Court’s radical decision to take away a woman’s freedom – her right to bodily autonomy – has pulled us back decades,” Hassan said. “Abortion is a fundamental right. I won’t let this be the final word on our freedom, and I will keep fighting.”

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (D) said the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will go further unless Democrats win elections.

“Make no mistake – they are coming for contraception. They are coming for same-sex marriage. Elections matter. Vote,” she tweeted.

Alito’s majority opinion explicitly confronts that particular argument, saying, “Rights regarding contraception and same-sex relationships are inherently different from the right to abortion because the latter (as we have stressed) uniquely involves what Roe and Casey termed ‘potential life.'” However, Justice Clarence Thomas, in a lone concurring opinion, suggested any cases resolved based on “substantive due process precedents” — which includes cases involving birth control and same-sex marriage — should be “reconsidered.”

Governor Chris Sununu released a statement repeating the fact that New Hampshire’s law isn’t impacted in any way by this ruling. “Regardless of this Supreme Court decision, access to these services will continue to remain safe, accessible, and legal in New Hampshire,” Sununu said.

Nevertheless, U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-Manchester, still claimed the Supreme Court’s ruling impacted women in the Granite State.

“This decision is a devastating blow against the health, well-being, and personal freedom of women in New Hampshire and all across our country,” Pappas said.

And state legislators like Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) went so far as to “implore” Sununu  “to call the Legislature back in for a special session to enshrine the right to safe, legal abortion care here in New Hampshire.” She did not explain how the court’s ruling affected abortions in the state.

State Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, who is running to unseat Sununu, said he would fight to ensure women continue to have the right to abortion in New Hampshire.

“I trust women to make their own medical decisions, & I will fight to codify into N.H. law the right to a safe and legal abortion,” Sherman tweeted. “Access to safe abortions & contraceptives have allowed women to grow their careers and make choices that are right for them & their families.”

All four members of the state’s federal delegation support the Women’s Health Protection Act, which, if passed, would force states to allow abortions without restriction through all nine months of pregnancy.

Dartmouth Health, the state’s largest healthcare provider, issued a statement on Friday affirming it would continue to provide abortion.

“Dartmouth Health is unwavering in its belief in the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship to make the best-informed decisions for patients to reflect their needs and healthcare priorities,” the statement read. “We also strongly believe that abortion is an essential component of healthcare. Like all medical matters, decisions regarding abortion should be made by patients in consultation with their healthcare providers.”

While Democrats in New Hampshire and national were blaming Republicans for the decision, Kristen Day, Executive Director of Democrats for Life, pointed out that the party’s extremist stance on abortion likely cost it the support needed to protect Roe.

“Abortion activists are responsible for the Roe being overturned. They overstepped by celebrating abortion and advocating for it for up to 9 months. The Democratic Party embraced these extremists leading to Republican majorities all over the country,” Day wrote on Twitter.

New Hampshire Republicans offered muted praise for the ruling, emphasizing the court’s decision moves the issue back to the states.

“I’m proud of my pro-life record in the New Hampshire State Senate,” said Senate President Chuck Morse (R-Salem), a candidate for U.S. Senate. “Last year we settled the law in New Hampshire that permits abortions in the first six months while banning late-term and partial-birth abortions in the last 12 weeks of a pregnancy – a policy that the vast majority of Granite Staters support. This decision has no impact on New Hampshire. I strongly believe that the states should have the right to govern policy in their respective states as the Supreme Court has ruled,” Morse said.

Retired Gen. Don Bolduc, who is also running in the GOP U.S. Senate primary, applauded the court’s decision as well.

“As a pro-life candidate, I believe the Supreme Court made the right decision. After the death and destruction I’ve seen across war-torn places in Afghanistan and Africa, I believe all life should be protected,” Bolduc said. “We must understand that this opinion does not outlaw abortion. It returns the decision to the individual states to make the decision they think is best for their citizens. Here in New Hampshire, our state has already passed our own laws well before this Court decision. That is precisely how the Founding Fathers intended our Constitutional Republic to function.”

Kevin Smith, R-Londonderry, another GOP U.S. Senate candidate, said state legislatures are the appropriate place to make decisions about abortion laws.

“I support returning the matter to the state legislatures, so the people in each of those states have a say in determining when it is appropriate to put reasonable restrictions in place, such as New Hampshire has done on late-term abortions,” he said.

In the GOP primary for the First Congressional District, several candidates were quick to give credit for the ruling to former President Donald Trump.

“I applaud the Supreme Court’s righteous decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Today, life wins, and the rule of law has prevailed. God Bless the Justices, and thank you President Trump!” said Karoline Leavitt, who is hoping to challenge Pappas in November.

Rep. Tim Baxter (R-Seabrook), another candidate in the crowded First District field, also thanked Trump, and said more work needs to be done.

“We need proven conservative leaders in Congress who will stand up against the radical abortionists’ attempts to codify abortion into federal law, and I look forward to defending the lives of the unborn once I’m elected to Congress,” he wrote.

Cornerstone Action, which has promoted pro-life legislation, issued a statement predicting violence against pro-life groups as a result of the decision.

“We expect today’s news will hasten political polarization around the country and inflame a hateful totalitarianism which threatens America’s constitutional order. We must also focus—more than ever—on the physical safety of pregnancy care centers and churches and, ultimately, on protecting the separation of powers and the rule of law,” Cornerstone said.

The Sununu administration appeared to take those concerns seriously.

Friday afternoon, New Hampshire’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division issued a state-wide alert after activists were gathering to protest the decision at several locations throughout the state.

“The State Emergency Operations Center has been partially activated as of 4:00 PM on Friday, 6/24/22 to monitor multiple events taking place across the state in response to a Supreme Court decision.”