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1st Congressional District GOP primary candidate Edwards: Values matter more than race

By DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 14. 2018 10:16AM
Eddie Edwards, who is running in the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District, speaks at an interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader in Manchester on Monday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)



Eddie Edwards, the Dover Republican now seeking his party’s nomination in the state’s 1st Congressional District, has been running hard in what has become a two-man race against state Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, for the right to challenge the Democratic nominee in November.

Edwards announced early, in April 2017, and has been on the campaign trail ever since.

“I’ve been to every single city and town in the district, all 80,” says the former police chief for South Hampton and a past chief of enforcement with the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. The district runs from Manchester to the Seacoast and north of Laconia, covering much of eastern New Hampshire.

“We’ve had five unscripted town hall meetings, and they’ve been open to anyone. I think getting out early was beneficial,” he said. “We were able to connect with a lot of people and gain support where we didn’t think we’d find it.”

Edwards ran unsuccessfully for state Senate from the Dover area in 2014, losing to incumbent Democrat David Watters. He previously worked in the Manchester district office of former U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, and in the 2016 New Hampshire presidential primary was a state co-chairman for Dr. Ben Carson.

In a fundraising letter to supporters in June, he described the challenges of running as a black conservative Republican in the age of Trump.

During an interview with Union Leader editors and reporters on Monday, he said he often encounters resistance from both sides of the racial divide.

“Many people in my community who look like me will say, ‘You are a sellout; you’re an Uncle Tom; you are doing the white man’s work for him,” said Edwards. “I get that. What’s disappointing is you also have a backdrop of people who are suspicious, who say ‘You can’t really be a conservative because you’re black. Somehow you’re running a game or playing a trick.’”

Dispelling the myth

Edwards said Democrats have successfully perpetuated the myth that all blacks are Democrats, something he said is inconsistent with his upbringing.

“My grandmother never talked to me about being a Republican or conservative,” says Edwards. “She said, ‘Don’t lie, cheat or steal.’ I believe in conservative values because they’re consistent with my upbringing as a southern Baptist ... I look at the values my grandmother taught me, and I can’t be anything but a conservative.”

During his 32 years in New Hampshire, Edwards says he has experienced discrimination first-hand, and in 2013 reach a $160,000 settlement with the state over allegations of discrimination while he was employed by the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission.

Edwards says the complaint was first filed in 2009, and after it was settled in 2013, he left the commission. Neither side admitted to any wrongdoing, and Edwards agreed he would not seek re-employment with the agency.

He said he was harassed because of his aggressive enforcement of liquor control laws. “I did not become a police officer or serve my country to ignore things that I seew are wrong,” he said.

Adheres to platform

Edwards adheres to the GOP platform on the key issues. He’s adamantly pro-life and supports the approach President Trump has taken to trade, deregulation, tax reform and immigration. On gun control, he takes an even more aggressive position than Trump, who earlier this year announced his support for regulation of bump stock devices used to convert semiautomatic guns into automatic weapons.

“He wants to ban them; I don’t,” said Edwards. “I see it as an accessory on a firearm, nothing more and nothing less.”

Edwards, a Navy veteran and graduate of the FBI National Academy, went into the private sector after his law enforcement career, working with small businesses to help reduce regulation and red tape, according to his biography.

He would like to see Congress take back more power from the executive branch, where he says regulators are exceeding their constitutional authority in writing rules and regulations.

“We can talk about reducing taxes and regulations all day long,” he said, “but until you change the people who actually write the regulations, you aren’t going to change a thing.”

Grant votes questioned

From 2009 through 2014, Edwards served on the board of directors of the New Hampshire Endowment for Health, which in that time approved grants to fund Planned Parenthood.

“I don’t ever remember that vote coming up,” he said. “I’m sure it did. I just don’t remember. If I was fully aware, there is no way I would vote for that. I don’t support Planned Parenthood, nor would I ever vote to support Planned Parenthood.”

The endowment, created in 1999 with proceeds from the sale of Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Hampshire to Anthem, has also funded programs to assist immigrants and refugees in the Granite State. Edwards said he was unaware of those votes and would have opposed that funding as well.

Edwards says he supports legal immigration, with one caveat: “I certainly think we should look at our vetting process and make sure people who want to come here are truly interested in becoming Americans.”

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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