Frontrunner Bolduc faces few attacks in final debate

·3 min read

Sep. 9—MANCHESTER — Retired Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc of Stratham went into the only televised debate as the Republican frontrunner for the U.S. Senate and came out the other side largely unscathed.

Bolduc's closest challenger, Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem, continued to avoid launching any attacks against Bolduc, instead casting himself as a trusted fiscal conservative who can get things done.

"We can live within our means without a sales tax, without an income tax. Now it's time to go down to Washington and show them how to budget the New Hampshire way," Morse said.

Bolduc said he's an "outsider" who will challenge the leadership in both political parties.

"You are either with me or you are not with me in the U.S. Senate," Bolduc said. "I will be the ambassador for the state of New Hampshire."

Former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith said he's a "conservative fighter who's gotten results" and panned Morse as a pawn of the Capitol Hill elite and Bolduc as the candidate U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan would most like to face.

"It reminds me of the song. Clowns to the left, jokers to the right and here I am, stuck in the middle with you, the New Hampshire voters," Smith quipped, alluding to the 1972 song from Stealer's Wheel.

All five candidates said they would support federal legislation to codify the U.S. Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriages legal in the U.S.

Smith said he would want to make sure the legislation allows religious groups to continue to discriminate based on their own beliefs.

Fenton stands apart on abortion

Bruce Fenton, a bitcoin millionaire from Durham, was the only candidate among the five to support abortion rights.

"I personally don't want to take away anyone's rights. I want people to have their own freedom. I don't want the government to be involved," Fenton said.

Vikram Mansharamani, a Lincoln entrepreneur, did take a swipe at both Smith and Morse in his closing statement.

"I haven't been running for office for 30 years. I went from pumping gas at my dad's station to advising Fortune 500 companies. The career politicians have broken this country. It's time to send a businessman to Washington to fix this mess," Mansharamani said.

When asked whether President Donald Trump should have taken classified documents to his Florida home, Morse declined to criticize Trump.

"You are missing the point, Adam," Morse said to WMUR Political Director Adam Sexton. "The point is we have politicized the problem. We need to investigate the management of both divisions (FBI and Justice Department) in this country.

Bolduc chose the middle ground in his response.

"Look, no classified material belongs in an unsecured area I think we can all agree on that but we don't have enough information," Bolduc said.

"We should have been told what they were doing. There should have been transparency with everything that has happened."

Mansharamani was more direct.

"Yes, we need to learn more but no I don't think confidential documents should be put in any unsecured place. No one is above the law."

Smith said Bolduc's position was extreme.

"My opponent, General Bonduc, has called for the FBI to be abolished. I don't think we need to do that but they need to be confirmed," Smith said.

Bolduc responded, "My words have been clear, we need to look at the Department of Justice and FBI at the highest levels ... if they haven't dealt with that transparency then we terminate their confirmation."

klandrigan@unionleader.com