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Sanborn: Political battles don't faze me

By DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 15. 2018 10:11PM
Andy Sanborn, right, who is running in the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District, speaks during an interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader on Wednesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)



Andy Sanborn, right, who is running in the Republican primary for the 1st Congressional District, speaks with editors and reporters at the New Hampshire Union Leader on Wednesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

When state Sen. Andy Sanborn takes the floor in Senate chambers to rail against government bureaucracy and heavy-handed regulation, he speaks from personal experience.

The 56-year-old Bedford Republican, now seeking his party’s nomination in the 1st Congressional District, says he was motivated to run for office in 2005, while he and his wife Laurie, a prominent GOP state representative, were building the popular downtown Concord bar they now own and operate.

“When Laurie and I made the decision to build The Draft (which we built from scratch), in no time whatsoever, there were five different government agencies coming into our construction project every week, essentially telling us that no matter what we did the week before, they didn’t like it, even though some other agency told me to do it, and we had to change it,” he said. “It turned a three-month project into a six-month project.”

Among those annoying bureaucrats was “the liquor enforcement guy,” said Sanborn, a not-so-subtle reference to his primary opponent, Eddie Edwards of Dover, formerly chief enforcement officer for the state Liquor Commission.

While Edwards has not held elective office, Sanborn is running with a 10-year legislative record that tilts hard right, but includes two separate sexual harassment investigations involving inappropriate comments to a male intern.

Recently released transcripts of interviews conducted as part of an Attorney General investigation into the 2013 incident revealed the nature of the “crass joke” at issue.

There was a discussion about Sanborn’s wife not being able to accompany him on an upcoming trip to Florida, and when the intern volunteered to take her place, Sanborn made a lewd reference to a sex act. The Department of Justice announced in June that it had completed a criminal investigation and found no basis for allegations that the intern was provided a job and cash in return for his silence.

‘No concern’

In an interview with Union Leader reporters and editors on Wednesday, Sanborn was asked if he thought the incident would damage his chances for election if nominated.

“It’s no concern whatsoever. It’s the same thing that I have said since the first day. My wife and a couple of guys in my office were joking around. No one was offended. I didn’t do anything wrong. No one filed a complaint. It was a joke,” Sanborn said.

“I understand 2018 is different from 2013, but the transcripts are clear. Everyone in the room says we were joking around. No one besides my political enemies have tried to make hay with it. And my political enemies have been trying to make hay with it for a long time. Now that I’m running for Congress, they are digging it back up to disparage my name.”

One of the people most responsible for reviving the issue is Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem. Morse recently requested an investigation into the matter by the Attorney General’s office, even though an earlier investigation by an outside attorney cleared Sanborn of any wrongdoing.

Morse’s action indicates that Sanborn is not the most popular senator within his own caucus. The outgoing chair of the state Republican Party, Jeanie Forrester, endorsed Edwards within days of resigning; and so far only one of Sanborn’s 13 fellow Republican senators has endorsed him — Sen. Harold French of Franklin.

“We just have not rolled out all the senators who have endorsed me yet,” said Sanborn. “You will find out it is a significant number,” in addition to 60 or more state representatives.

Bucking leadership

When asked why the Senate president from his own party and a recently retired party chief would take actions that have undermined his candidacy, Sanborn chalked it up to his refusal to support policies favored by Senate leadership, like Medicaid expansion.

“When you stand up to people and get in the way of them getting what they want, there is often retaliation,” he said. “I fought against Medicaid expansion; I fought against the budget ... all these things they wanted and advocated for that I didn’t want. That’s politics.”

On the campaign trail, Sanborn touts his conservative credentials and adherence to the GOP platform on issues like taxes, abortion, gun control, immigration and support for President Trump (including the wall on the Mexican border).

“I think the policies that have been enacted during his presidency — repatriation (of foreign investments), cutting taxes, pushing back on regulation — have made our economy better than it has ever been, perhaps better than Ronald Reagan.”

Outrage ‘staggering’

Sanborn says he’s encountered an unexpected level of emotion surrounding the issue of illegal immigration among New Hampshire Republicans.

“I was really surprised when we began campaigning how concerned the people of New Hampshire are about illegal immigration,” he said. “I’ve spent a fair amount of time in this campaign talking to people about what’s important to them, and where it always used to be jobs and the economy, illegal immigration is at least equal.”

In the last session, Sanborn along with six other Senate Republicans, sponsored a bill prohibiting adult education financial assistance from a $4 million state fund to any student who is not a legal resident. The bill passed the Senate, 13-11, but was referred to a study committee by the House.

“The outrage over this on both sides of the aisle, obviously for different reasons, was staggering to me,” Sanborn said. “It may have been in this past cycle the most emotionally charged issue that I worked on.”

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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