Frank Guinta knew his well-documented violations of federal campaign finance law would come up last night. And he came prepared, so much so that he raised the issue himself, just seconds into the debate.
"Unfortunately during the next 60 minutes, my opponent, who is a carrier lobbyist will try to impugn my integrity and personally attack me and my family and tell you that I haven’t done anything for the people of New Hampshire."
Guinta’s prediction was partially true. His illegal receipt of $355,000 from his parents during his 2010 run for congress, a race in which he beat Rich Ashooh in the primary, did get plenty of attention. WMUR even rolled tape of Guinta’s past statements on the issue: that the FEC had exonerated him; that the money his parents gave him was money he’d earned. Both claims have been disproved. But Guinta never got too flustered and kept moving.
"The reality is I've answered every question, and I have put myself up for reelection because of the good work I have done on behalf of the state, focusing on the heroin epidemic, focusing on the cadillac tax, focusing on the 6 pieces of legislation that I got signed into law by this president. That’s what I think should be focused on."
Rich Ashooh agreed voters want to hear about other things, but he also argued guinta’s FEC violation is serious.
"Our congressman, the person representing us broke the law and lied about it.and broke the law in a way that this is a campaign finance scandal that we have never seen the likes of before in New Hampshire. Well, that’s a disgrace."
Guinta meanwhile, work hard to impugn Ashooh’s past work at defense contractor BAE systems, where among other things, Ashooh was a registered lobbyist.
“The reality is you are a Washington lobbyist, you have been for three decades as you said at the last debate. And I don’t think a lobbyist will be a change agent, particularly given the fact that you are the candidate that is supported and endorsed by the establishment in our state. I’m the guy who’s the outsider, who is trying to fight for families. That’s what this choice is about. Not to mention as the lobbyists. You directed money to Hillary Clinton, you directed money Nancy Pelosi, you directed money to Jeanne Shaheen.”
“Is everyone paying attention to this? We have a 20 year career politician running as an outsider.”
Yet on the issues, Guinta and Ashooh largely agreed. Both called for securing the border and opposed tightening gun laws. They both said they believe life begins at conception. And both were concerned that efforts to address climate change would cause overregulation.But one place they did split was over GOP nominee Donald Trump. Ashooh said he will vote for Trump but doesn’t believe it’s a candidate’s role to tell voters who to support for President. While Guinta said helping Trump is part of being a team player.
“So, you know I want to help unite people around Donald Trump not just within our party but also independents and democrats who are frustrated with their nominee for president of the United States.”
May I respond?
“First of all let’s be very clear, the team that Frank Guinta is part of called for his resignation. Every major republican in the state called for his resignation. That is not being a team player.”
But what about promising to endorse the winner of primary? When that question was put, Frank Guinta gave a quick yes. While Rich Ashooh said he’d consider it. But only if Guinta admitted he broke the law and lied and apologized to voters -- a possibility that at this point seems exceedingly remote.