Burns, Hansel in tight race in GOP Congressional primary

  • Robert Burns —COURTESY PHOTO

  • Keene Mayor George Hansel, left, looks over early returns Tuesday with Ted Prill of the campaign consulting company KAP Strategies. —Aaron Lipsky for The Sentinel

The Keene Sentinel
Published: 9/14/2022 7:40:14 AM
Modified: 9/14/2022 7:39:45 AM

Robert Burns, a former Hillsborough County treasurer and an avowed supporter of former President Donald Trump, was locked in a tight race with Keene Mayor George Hansel in the Republican primary for New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District on Tuesday.

The district includes all the towns in the Ledger-Transcript coverage area, and the winner will face five-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster in the Nov. 8 general election. She did not face a challenger from her own party. 

At midnight, with two-thirds of the returns counted, Burns led Hansel by about 400 votes out of more than 25,000 votes cast, according to WMUR.

Hansel, 36, was endorsed by GOP Gov. Chris Sununu and outraised his opponent in campaign contributions.

Burns, of Pembroke, who owns a quality-control company, served as National Youth Coalition chair for Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He has tried to position himself to the right of Hansel.

He expressed support for creating a federal ban on abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat, which generally happens at about six weeks of pregnancy.

Hansel said abortion restrictions should be left in the hands of state lawmakers and that he supports New Hampshire’s approach, which is to generally prohibit the procedure after 24 weeks of pregnancy. He has been noncommittal on whether he would support Trump should the twice-impeached former president run again for the White House.

The mayor of a solidly Democratic community, Hansel said he was the candidate with the greatest chance of defeating Kuster in a district that covers the entire Monadnock region and hasn’t been represented by a Republican in a decade.

Some Democratic organizations have paid for political advertising across the country this year to boost the chances for right-wing candidates, including Burns, in the hopes they could be vulnerable in a general election.

The Washington Post reported Monday that such groups have spent nearly $19 million in eight states on such ads, mainly TV commercials, including $100,000 to highlight Burns, who calls himself a “pro-Trump, unapologetic conservative.”

Burns has called for consolidating some federal law-enforcement agencies, wants to continue Trump’s efforts to build a wall on the U.S. southern border and opposes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He wants to make concealed-carry gun permits valid across state lines.

He opposes a bipartisan gun bill that President Joe Biden signed into law in June, one month after a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 children and two teachers dead. The measure will incrementally increase scrutiny of gun purchases by young people, bolster mental health programs and aims to keep guns out of the hands of more domestic abusers.

Burns has been critical of public education. He posted on his website an interview he did on the “Real America’s Voice” TV show in which he said, “Racism is being taught in school and quite frankly we’re not teaching real history.”

He asserted children are being taught in accordance with a social agenda to “villainize all white people,” although he has not specified one classroom where this is actually taking place.

Teachers and school administrators in New Hampshire have frequently said they have no such agenda and that they should not be censored in the way they teach history.

Hansel, co-owner of Filtrine Manufacturing in Keene, has trained his political fire on Kuster, 66, of Hopkinton, calling her “a minion” for the Biden administration and congressional leadership. He says Washington caused inflation by spending too much money.

He said federal spending needs to be reduced.

New Hampshire Democratic Party Communications Director David Pourshoushtari has said high federal spending was needed to deal with the major effects of COVID-19 on people and businesses.

According to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission for the period ending Aug. 24, Burns had raised $185,997, including $150,500 in loans from himself, for his congressional bid, compared to $377,181 in contributions received by Hansel.

While there were seven GOP candidates vying to face Kuster in the fall, Hansel and Burns received the lion’s share of public attention. Lily Tang Williams of Weare, a former Libertarian candidate, appeared with the two men in a N.H. Journal debate at Saint Anselm’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics in early August.

The other Republican candidates in the race were Scott Black of Whitefield, Michael Callis of Conway, Jay Mercer of Nashua and Dean A. Poirier of Concord.

Rick Green can be reached at rgreen@keenesentinel.com or 603-355-8567. These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 




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