Debate heats up GOP race

Last modified: 8/21/2014 9:02:38 AM
Editor's note: This story previously attributed a quote -- “Let’s be serious. One candidate on stage doesn’t have life experience” -- to Lambert, in error. Lawrence said this, referring to Garcia, and what he called a lack of experience.

RINDGE — The gloves started to come off between Republican candidates Marilinda Garcia, Gary Lambert and Jim Lawrence, as they sparred for the Republican nomination for New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District seat Tuesday night at Franklin Pierce University. The three are vying for the right to face off against Democratic incumbent Annie Kuster of Hopkinton in the General Election.

It started off slow, but Garcia, Lambert and Lawrence exchanged jabs back and forth in the second half of Tuesday night’s Monadnock Debate, a series being presented by FPU, the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript and New Hampshire Public Television.

Garcia, 31, of Salem, a four-term state representative, criticized Lambert for distributing a campaign mailer that reads she supports “$150 million in new taxes.” In large letters, the mailer says, “Vote No On Marilinda Garcia.”

Lambert — a Nashua attorney, retired Marine colonel and one-term state senator — went on the defensive, calling Garcia’s comments an attack on him.

When asked what tax changes they are in favor of, Lambert advocated for a simpler tax system that could be filled out on a postcard. Lambert said he and his wife are small-business owners who have to pay exorbitant fees to file taxes.

Responding to Lambert’s answer, Garcia brought up the aforementioned mailer, saying he “attacked” her argument to stop tax benefits for corporations, while he advocated for these corporate loopholes himself on stage.

Garcia said she is in support of closing corporate loopholes and reducing corporate tax rates. “What I don’t think Senator Lambert understands, is [closing corporate loopholes] wouldn’t put money back into the treasury, it would give it back to taxpayers,” Garcia said, referring back to what she said was an incorrect calculation in Lambert’s mailer.

Jim Lawrence, a Hudson consultant and defense contractor, said his small business is a corporation.

“Last time I checked, there is no distinguishment from small and large corporations,” he said, next attacking Garcia’s age. “Maybe if in Washington, we have people who have life experiences, and who can make these kinds of decisions, Washington can make better decisions for all of us.”

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Lawrence is also the first African-American to run for Congress in New Hampshire. He is also a former state representative.

The candidates were next asked about immigration reform.

Lambert supports securing the United States’ borders, completing a border fence, and patrolling the border from the air. He also said he is opposed to granting citizenship to illegal immigrants living in the U.S. He next turned his attention back to Garcia, who he said is in favor of amnesty. He listed Garcia’s affiliations, referring to a resolution Garcia put her name on last year, as part of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. Part of the resolution advocated for national comprehensive immigration reform.

Garcia responded, urging Lambert to spend more of his time talking about his own ideas on immigration, instead of attacking hers. Garcia prioritized securing the borders first, protecting the rights of American citizens second and that of legal immigrants third.

She said she never supported illegal immigrant amnesty, although she pointed out she is one of the few Republicans trying to expand the dialogue with liberals about immigration. In between, citizenship, amnesty and deportation, she said, there are many other reforms that are realistic and pragmatic that can be accomplished through partisan cooperation.

Lawrence said his first order of business if he is elected is to finish the border fence; he said he’d use the National Guard to enforce the border — and no amnesty under any circumstances. “I’m not going to allow anybody to think they can come here illegally, and get to stay,” he said.

In his closing statement, Lawrence spoke to his life experience. He said at 25 he owned his own home, at 30 he started his own business, and at 31 he was elected to the New Hampshire State House.

“Let’s be serious. One candidate on stage doesn’t have life experience,” Lawrence said, referring to Garcia, and what he called a lack of experience.

Garcia responded, saying she doesn’t “begrudge” other candidates. Instead, she said she is fighting against the untrustworthiness of the Obama administration, citing the Affordable Care Act and how a terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi was handled. She also said Rep. Kuster is said to be one of the President’s greatest supporters.

Lambert concluded, saying he would enforce immigration, help increase the quality of life for veterans, and repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Earlier in the debate, the candidates informed the public about their stance on foreign policy. Lawrence said he supported the U.S. using planes to attack the Islamic State of the Levant, or ISIL, an Islamic terrorist group trying to seize control of Iraq and Syria. But Lawrence said he wouldn’t support sending back ground forces to Iraq. He was also in favor of more military spending on technology.

Lambert, who served in Iraq, said he isn’t favor of any boots on the ground in Iraq either. “I was those boots on the ground,” he said. He wasn’t in favor of more defense spending either. Instead he advocated for more services to veterans, with funds from unnecessary spending and corporate cronyism elsewhere.

Garcia said the U.S. should consider sending troops back to Iraq. She said the President’s removing troops from Iraq, in order to stick to a “politically motivated” timeline, allowed for destabilization of the region. But she praised the U.S. recently defending Yazidis from ISIL on Mount Sinjar. Garcia said a strong military and defense budget should be the nation’s priority. But the government should also look for “deficiencies” in military spending.

The candidates were also asked about their opinions of the Northern Pass project — a proposal by Hydro-Quebec, a Canadian power company, and Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire — to run 180 miles of power lines through northern New Hampshire to Concord and on to Deerfield.

Garcia said she worries about the project impacting the ascetics of the North Country, where part of the project will be built. But, Garcia said she wasn’t against it if power lines were buried.

Lawrence said he is totally opposed to the Northern Pass, because the power lines the energy companies are proposing would damage the landscape and the tourism industry.

Lambert said he is also opposed to the Northern Pass.

Immediately following the debate, Joel Cohen of Rindge said he was leaning toward Lawrence. Cohen said Lawrence understands things and appears “calmer.” Cohen also liked Garcia’s attitude. He said he was not concerned about her age.

On Wednesday, Roberta Gordenstein of Rindge said she was “really impressed” by Garcia. She said she thought she responded “calmly” to the jibes thrown at her.

State Rep. Susan Emerson (R-Rindge) said she thinks Lambert has the best chance against Kuster, especially because he will get a lot of veteran votes.

The third and final debate in the series before the primary is scheduled for tonight at 6 p.m. at FPU, between candidates for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat. The candidates participating are Robert D’Arcy, Mark Farnham, Bob Hegmann, Walt Kelly, Andy Martin and Bob Smith.


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