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Edwards and Pappas Spar on Social Security at AARP Forum

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

As Election Day approaches, the race between 1st Congressional District candidates Chris Pappas and Eddie Edwards is heating up. 

The candidates met at a packed AARP forum on Thursday to discuss Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, prescription drug prices, and paid family leave. 

They had starkly different takes on how to support seniors, with Democrat Chris Pappas saying he would "protect and strengthen" government programs, and Republican Eddie Edwards advocating for the free market over government control. 

Pappas said he supported paid family leave and touted the paid-time-off policy for employees at his family-owned restaurant, The Puritan Backroom.

'You don’t want people choosing between being with their family at a tough time and losing out on work," he said, "And I think as a country you should treat everyone that way."

Edwards said paid time off should be at the discretion of individual businesses, like Pappas’, not the government.

"Chris is absolutely right," he said. "He made that choice as a business person. Another business may not want to make that choice - they may not have the same dedication, loyalty ,and commitment from their employees that he may garner from doing this. That’s a free market solution; not a government solution."

Social security has become a lightning rod issue since the candidates' debate last week on NHPR. Pappas criticized Edwards’ remarks about "weaning" younger people off Social Security.

Edwards stressed his commitment to providing Social Security to current seniors and accused Chris Pappas of twisting his words.

"He continues to perpetuate something he knows is not true," Edwards said. "I thought Chris was a different kind of person but he turned out to be just like every other career politician."

'Well," Pappas responded, "If being part of New Hampshire citizen-led government, where you’re running for state rep and getting 100 bucks a year, makes you a career politician, then we have a state full of career politicians. That’s not the case."

Pappas has been in politics since 2002. He is currently a member of the Executive Council. In that elected role, he gets a little under $17,000 a year. He is a co-owner and manager of his family's restaurant.

Edwards, who has worked as a police chief, a government regulator, and a lobbyist, tried to clarify his remarks:

"What I meant by a career politician is very clear," he said. "Someone who left college at 22 and came back to the state and engaged in politics and has never really dealt with normal people."

Forum audience members had a mixed response.

Virginia Clifford, a long-time Pappas supporter, said being a career politician wasn't a bad thing. 

"The type of experience that Chris has as a politician is deep and very important for understanding and learning policy," she said. "I’m very wary of a newcomer taking a high position with deep policy issues that you can’t learn on the fly.”

Paul Chevalier, an Edwards supporter, disagreed.


"I see the same [politics] happen at a much lower level here as there is in Washington," he said. "By New Hampshire standards, Chris is a career politician."

Chevalier, a retired U.S. Marine, said years of political experience were less important to him than getting a veteran like Edwards into office.

The two candidates will meet again at a debate in North Conway on October 23.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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