Strike ISIS hard, 1st District candidates agree
MANCHESTER — The murder of a second journalist by the terrorist organization ISIS took center stage at Tuesday’s 1st Congressional District Republican primary debate co-sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader, WMUR and St. Anselm College.
Former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, who is seeking to regain the seat he lost two years ago to U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., said the United States should consider declaring war against ISIS, which on Tuesday said it had beheaded Steven Sotloff, a graduate of New Hampshire’s Kimball Union Academy.
“We need to eliminate and eradicate ISIS. It needs to be done immediately,” Guinta said. President Barack Obama “needs to come to Congress for an act of war vote.”One of Guinta’s challengers, Portsmouth businessman Dan Innis, said he was appalled by statements that the Obama administration, which has initiated air strikes against ISIS, has no strategy for the campaign.
“My strategy would be to wipe ISIS off the face of the earth quickly and permanently,” said Innis, who recently received the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Fellow Republican challenger Brendan Kelly, a former soldier in the U.S. Army and retired shipbuilder, said he abhors war, but understands that it may be necessary to “wipe ISIS out.”
“You just can’t keep putting up with this,” he said.
On Aug. 19, the militant Islamist group released a video showing the beheading of New Hampshire-based journalist James Foley.
Innis and Kelly each said to prevent terrorism, they would support having the National Security Administration monitor anyone who crosses American borders illegally.
Guinta, who served in the state Legislature, as a Manchester alderman, city mayor and member of the U.S. House, said efforts to call him a career politician — which Innis did at the end of the debate — are misplaced.
“I’ve been about service,” he said. “I’ve also been the owner of small businesses.”
Guinta, meanwhile, claimed that Innis has supported Democratic candidates, including giving former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jackie Cilley a $500 donation and pulling a ballot to vote in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.
Innis called voting a “private matter.” He said he registered as a Republican when he turned 18 and believes in the party’s focus on fiscal conservatism.
“I’ve almost always supported a Republican candidate,” Innis said. “The record will show that I did not support Jackie Cilley.”
Economy, gay marriage
The candidates each said the economy hasn’t improved since Obama took office in 2009, when the economy was in the midst of a recession and unemployment eventually soared to 10 percent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobs lost during the recession were regained earlier this year, though many states, including New Hampshire, still have not fully recovered. Unemployment has been on a steady decline since October 2009 and today is at 6.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“No, it’s not better,” Kelly said. “I don’t know how you can say the economy is getting better if people aren’t working.”
Guinta said Shea-Porter has served four years in Congress during Obama’s presidency and “she hasn’t done anything to try to improve the economic conditions for the middle class.”
“The economy is clearly not better,” Innis said. “Like consumers, when there’s uncertainty, they save their money. They don’t expand and don’t grow.”
Just one of the candidates said they believed the Republican Party should support, as part of its national platform, the legalization of same-sex marriage.
“Yes, I think it’s time,” said Innis, who is in a same-sex marriage.
“I do support traditional marriage,” Guinta said. “I think this is a state issue, but I support traditional marriage.”
“I think marriage is between a man and a woman and their God and I don’t think the state has any place in it,” Kelly said.
Minimum wage, VA reform
The candidates gave varying answers to what they believed the federal minimum wage should be.
“About a dollar and a half,” Kelly said.
“I think the federal minimum wage should be an absolute floor,” Innis said.
Each said they were skeptical that a $16 billion bill signed by Obama to overhaul the Veterans Administration, which has been dogged by reports of veterans waiting months for care, would solve issues within the VA. The bill provides money to improve facilities and hire more medical staff to try to cut wait times for veterans.
“I am concerned that this was an effort by Congress to throw some money at a problem without solving the problem,” Innis said.
Guinta and Kelly said they would support a system that would allow a veteran to receive care anywhere, without having to rely on VA hospitals.
“A veteran should just be given a card that allows them to go to any facility they want to,” Guinta said.
Candidates were questioned by the New Hampshire Union Leader political reporter Dan Touhy, James Pindell of WMUR.com and Josh Rogers of NH Public Radio.