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

Candidates Spar at First NHGOP Senate Debate

GOFFSTOWN — The five Republican candidates competing to take on Sen. Maggie Hassan in the fall burnished their conservative bona fides during Monday night’s debate hosted by New Hampshire Journal.

Retired Gen. Don Bolduc, bitcoin businessman Bruce Fenton, entrepreneur Vikram Mansharamani, State Sen. President Chuck Morse and former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith mostly stuck to criticizing what they say are Hassan and President Joe Biden’s failed policies, though Fenton and Smith did go on the attack at times against the other Republicans.

Smith targeted Bolduc several times during the debate, questioning his temperament and attacking his past statements on the war in Ukraine. Smith referenced a March 2022 Fox News interview in which Bolduc appeared to urge the CIA or military to “get in there on the ground” in Ukraine, using “indirect fires and direct capabilities” to attack Russian targets. At one point, he said the U.S. could use “special operations troops in a way that we get in there,” though without “boots on the ground.”

“These are Democrat tactics, attacking Republicans like this,” Bolduc said in response to Smith’s attack. “Yeah, I have in the past, and I acknowledged that and said hey, like anybody else you regret some of the things you say. That’s being honest, that’s being truthful. This up here is political theater because he polls at two points.”

Fenton repeatedly attacked Morse for what he said was a lack of leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for being a “deal maker” and a rubber stamp for the Republican Party. Morse did not respond to any of the attacks launched throughout the debate. Immediately after the debate ended, his team declared victory.

“The difference between me and them is I’ve actually done it,” Morse said in a statement.

Morse touted the fiscally conservative budgets passed during his time in the State House, and his socially conservative achievements like getting Education Freedom Accounts passed and a 24-week abortion ban made into law.

The candidates largely agreed on the issues; they want energy independence, lower taxes, stronger border enforcement, and they are opposed to abortion and gun control. All five said they would not support a federal abortion ban imposed by Washington, D.C.

Where they differ is in their emphasis on the issues.

Fenton, for example, says he can bring along Free State libertarians and independents as part of his coalition. He repeatedly hit the COVID-19 pandemic response as an example of the tyranny he is fighting.

“A senator doesn’t have that much power, but what you can do is disrupt and I’m a disrupter. I’ve been a disrupter my whole career. And this is what we need now. We need a disrupter desperately because of what have going on in our country,” he said. “If I had sat on this stage four years ago years ago and told you that a scientist was going to be able to shut down millions of businesses and put people out of their jobs and people were going to be forced to wear a mask, you’d have thought I was insane.”

Smith made the case for himself as the most electable conservative with experience going back to his time as a 19-year-old state representative, and his years leading the town of Londonderry.

“We’re going to need the strongest, most electable conservative candidate as our nominee in order to win this race. And I believe I am that person,” Smith said. “The reality is we’re going to need the Glenn Younkin model for our nominee to win this race. I’ve said all along we’re going to need not just conservative Republicans, we’re going to need Trump Independents and we’re going to need Regan Democrats as well.”

Mansharamani, a newcomer to politics, told voters he would bring an independent, results-oriented view to the job

“The first thing to know about Maggie Hassan is she is a party-line voter. She doesn’t think for herself. Where I’ve written a book called ‘Think For Yourself,'” Mansharamani said.

The debate, sponsored by N.H. Journal, was held at the Saint Anselm College New Hampshire Institute of Politics auditorium. It was aired on Manchester Public T.V. Channel 16 and streamed online. N.H. Journal Managing Editor Michael Graham led the panel that included longtime New Hampshire GOP strategist and media personality Alicia Preston Xanthopoulos and Washington Times Capitol Hill reporter Haris Alic.

It was the first debate of the primaries for the race, but Smith started calling for four more debates before the event began. Mansharamani topped that, calling for 10 GOP candidate debates.

‘I Intend to Run:’ Smith Resigns Town Manager Job, Eyes U.S. Senate Race

Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith formally tendered his resignation to Town Council Monday night and announced he intends to officially enter the GOP primary for U.S. Senate.

“After a considerable amount of thought and deep reflection over the last month or so, this evening I am tendering my resignation as town manager, effective March 11th,” Smith said. “As it has been speculated in various media outlets over the last few weeks, it is my intent to formally announce my candidacy for the United States Senate in the not too distant future.”

Smith’s move comes just a day after state Senate President Chuck Morse announced he is forming a committee and intends to enter the race shortly as well. NHGOP insiders say both candidates have the potential to defeat first-term incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan, particularly in the pro-GOP political environment that is taking shape.

Smith, 44, has been serving as Londonderry town manager since 2013, after losing the GOP gubernatorial primary to Ovide Lamontagne — who would go on to lose to Hassan in the general election. Before that, Smith was a state representative from 1996 to 1998 and later ran Cornerstone Action, a conservative advocacy group.

While Morse has proven fundraising chops and is a respected member of the state’s Republican establishment, Smith has both connections to the grassroots and a story his supporters believe will appeal to voters frustrated by the current state of politics.

Gen. Don Bolduc is already in the GOP primary, but his public attacks on Gov. Chris Sununu based on fringe conspiracy theories and inability to raise money have left many believing he is not a viable candidate.

Democrats clearly have their eye on Smith, however. Within minutes of his announcement, the state Democratic Party tweeted: “Kevin Smith is a well-known extremist and one of the leading opponents of women’s reproductive freedom in N.H. With Smith about to get into the race, the Republican primary will only get more chaotic, more messy, and more extreme. Good luck!”

Smith is a former staffer for both GOP U.S. Senator Bob Smith (no relation) and Gov. Craig Benson. In 2017, Sununu appointed Smith to the board of directors of Pease Development Authority.

Smith is married and has three children. And, he told the town council Monday night, he plans to continue to announce the Londonderry High football games.

“The words ‘thank you’ seem so insufficient for taking a chance on me almost nine years ago to be your town manager,” Smith said. “What I stated to you then at the end of my interview still holds true today and even more so: ‘I love Londonderry.'”



Bolduc: I Drove ‘Communist Sympathizer’ Sununu Out of Senate Race

During a conspiracy-spinning interview with radio host Jack Heath Tuesday retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc called fellow Republican Chris Sununu a “Chinese Communist sympathizer” whose family business “supports terrorism,” and claimed he drove the governor from the U.S. Senate race.

“I derailed Gov. Sununu from running for Senate,” Bolduc said. “Let’s face it — the most powerful political family in New Hampshire made a decision not to run against a political outsider for the United States Senate.

“We ran a Sun Tzu-like campaign that brought to the forefront all of his flaws for serving at the national level as a U.S. Senator. And he surprised all of his supporters because in the 11th hour, he looked at the polls and there was no guarantee could beat Bolduc. And he can’t afford a loss based on his future ambitions in the political arena.”

A UNH Survey Center poll released in October found that while Sununu led Sen. Maggie Hassan 45-42 percent, Bolduc trails her 47-42 percent.

Bolduc also called Sununu a “Chinese Communist sympathizer” who’s “in business with Saudi Arabian companies that give money to terrorists. He’s a globalist world-government guy.”

While some of Bolduc’s rhetoric appears to be motivated by personal anger at Sununu’s unwillingness to back him in last year’s Senate primary, the retired general has embraced conspiracy theories as a central part of his campaign.

Bolduc is touting Trump’s fact-free claims about the Biden campaign stealing the 2020 presidential campaign.

Bolduc was also one of 124 retired generals and admirals who released a letter in May claiming the election was rigged in Biden’s favor. And his most recent campaign event headlined disgraced former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

“He was a lousy candidate when he was sane,” one NHGOP insider told NHJournal. “Running as a lunatic isn’t much of an improvement.”


Court Ruling Backs Sununu’s Stance Opposing Vax Mandates

Less than 48 hours after Gov. Chris Sununu announced his support for a legal challenge to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate on private businesses, a federal court has already stepped forward to rule against Biden’s plan.

The ruling “foreshadows an uphill battle” for the mandate policy, according to the New York Times, and it’s the latest indicator that Sununu has once again put himself in the center of the political bell curve on the politics of COVID-19.

When New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella announced his decision to join an 11-state lawsuit challenging Biden’s federal vaccine mandate, Sununu quickly gave his public endorsement.

“COVID vaccines are the most effective tool we have to protect ourselves and our community from this virus,” Sununu said. “But as the head of state, I recognize the limitations of government in mandating this personal medical decision. President Biden has created a loophole to facilitate this overreach, which is why I fully support the Attorney General’s decision to sign on to this lawsuit.”

New Hampshire Democrats have been criticizing Sununu’s opposition to mandates, in particular his reluctance to impose mandates on local school districts regarding COVID policy, since the pandemic began. Sununu has consistently said that, while he believes the vaccines are safe, effective, and the best way out of the pandemic, he generally opposes mandates as a public policy.

Formella’s office announced Friday that New Hampshire joined with Missouri, Arizona, Nebraska, Montana, Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, and Wyoming, along with several private businesses and organizations in a challenge to an “emergency” Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule to force employers to require workers to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing.

Formella also believes that the vaccines are safe, effective, said in a statement on the lawsuit that the mandates are the problem, not the vaccines.

“The new Emergency Temporary Standard issued by OSHA is illegal and would impose significant burdens on New Hampshire businesses and their employees. We are therefore obligated to take action to protect the interests of our state’s citizens and businesses,” Formellla said.

At least 27 states have filed lawsuits challenging the rule in several circuits.

In a separate legal action, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana temporarily halted the mandate after a conglomeration of businesses groups, religious groups, advocacy organizations and several other states filed a petition on Friday with the court, arguing that the administration had overstepped its authority.

The Fifth Circuit panel said the judges were blocking the regulation “because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.”

Some legal experts, like UCLA Berkeley Law Professor John Yoo, call the mandate blatantly unconstitutional.

“It undermines the Constitution’s balance between Congress and the president and between the federal and state governments,” Yoo said. “Congress has not vested the president with the power to govern every aspect of every office and factory in the nation, and even if it had, such a grant of sweeping power would violate the very division of authority between the national and state governments.”

(Yoo is perhaps best known for writing the legal justification for the CIA’s use of harsh interrogation tactics against Al-Qaeda detainees during the George W. Bush administration.)

And attorney Dan McLaughlin, who writes legal analysis for National Review, says the administration’s decision to announce the “emergency” OSHA rules in September, but not have them take effect until January, will hurt their case.

“The Biden administration could have a very hard time explaining to the [SCOTUS] chief justice why it is entitled to assert emergency powers that exist to address ‘immediate’ threats, then do nothing with them for four months.”

Nonetheless, the Biden administration says they’re going to keep pushing the mandates.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told ABC’s “This Week” it’s full steam ahead.

“The president and the administration wouldn’t have put these requirements in place if they didn’t think that they were appropriate and necessary, and the administration is certainly prepared to defend them,” Murthy told host Martha Raddatz.

Are they playing politics? They may want to re-read their polls. Since mid-September, polling has shown that Americans are, at best, split on the issue of mandates. A recent Economist-YouGov poll reports that only 52 percent of registered voters back Biden’s mandates, while 43 percent are opposed.

Here in the Granite State, a slim majority oppose the vaccine mandates, 52- 46 percent, according to a New Hampshire Institute of Politics poll.

And a new Rasmussen Research poll found 52 percent of likely voters say they support workers refusing to comply with workplace requirements to get COVID-19 vaccines. Just 38 percent oppose it.

And then there’s the question of whether, after Biden expends the political capital to push them, the mandates will still be needed in January. Many health experts predict COVID-19 is winding down due to the prevalence of vaccines and the Delta wave that largely infects the unvaccinated. With vaccines approved for children aged 5 to 11, and a new Pfizer drug that can prevent 90 percent of hospitalizations of the infected, COVID-19 may be in the rearview in a few months.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA said on Twitter the government has already been successful in rolling out the vaccines, and mandates are not the way to reach the unvaccinated.

“As a fight over the federal OSHA mandate unfolds, we should remember 80.5% of responsible adults 18+ already had at least one dose of Covid vaccine,” Gottlieb wrote. “What level do we need to get to? What will the OSHA provision accomplish? And were there less divisive ways to achieve these goals?”