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Meet the Candidate: Bryant 'Corky' Messner, Republican Running for U.S. Senate

Bryant "Corky" Messner
File Photo, NHPR

Republican Bryant "Corky" Messner of Wolfeboro, a military veteran and attorney,  has pitched himself as a political outsider. Messner, who has been endorsed by President Trump, is seeking to become the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate.  Messner joined us for the first in our summer series of primary candidate interviews.  For more on this series, see below. 

Air date: July 10, 2020. 

On Fridays throughout the summer, The Exchange is dedicating the first segment of the Weekly N.H. News Roundup -- from 9 to 9:20 a.m. -- to interviews with candidates vying to become their party's nominee when voters head to the polls on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Winners in the primary will compete in the general election on Tuesday Nov. 3. 

For this series, The Exchange is focusing on candidates running in contested races in the Sept. 8 primary for Governor, U.S. House and U.S Senate. Listeners will be able to ask questions during the live show with calls and emails – or questions can be submitted in advance by emailing exchange@nhpr.org.


This is a computer-generated transcript and may contain errors:


Peter Biello: From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Peter Biello and this is the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on the Exchange.

Bryant “Corky” Mesner is an attorney and military veteran from Wolfeboro. Here is one of the Republicans hoping to challenge U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen in the general election this fall. Today on the Roundup, we're kicking off our summer series of conversations with candidates running in the primary scheduled for September 8th. We'll spend the first part of the program with Bryant “Corky” Messner and then turn to the news of the week. And your questions or comments are welcome. As always, send them by email. The address is exchange at nhpr, org or call us. The number is one 800 892-6477. Bryant “Corky” Messner joins us now by Zoom.

Thank you very much for speaking with us. Really appreciate it. 


Corky Messner: Good morning. Thanks for having me on. 


Peter Biello: So I'd like to start our conversation today, giving you a chance to weigh in on the national conversation we've been having about race. What is one specific action you would take if elected to combat systemic racism, whether it's in housing policy, education, health care or criminal justice?


Corky Messner: The first thing I would do is I would bring together a group of people to broadly discuss issues around race in this country, and I would bring together people from various factions, including those African-Americans who view the race issue in a different way than what we hear from the left.  And we have to muster the courage to have an open and honest discussion about all issues around race, including what's going on in the inner cities like Chicago and other major cities and the crime and the killings that are going on throughout the country. And we should take this opportunity to bring everybody together and have an honest, open discussion about how to solve these problems in the United States.


Peter Biello: Can I ask you to clarify what you mean when you say you want to bring in African-Americans who think of things differently than the left?


Corky Messner: Yeah, I mean  there's many, many African-Americans, people like Thomas Sowell out of Stanford and Bob Woodson and Shelby Steele, who has ideas to help the African-American community in the inner cities, that address things like education and school choice and charter schools in the inner cities, that address things like bringing economic opportunities to those areas where where jobs are needed and help the African-American community overall. And there's thought leaders on on both ends of the political spectrum and we ought to bring them together and listen to each other and come up with solutions. 


Peter Biello: Do you support the Black Lives Matter movement?

Corky Messner:  I do not. I think the Black Lives Matter movement is a revolutionary movement.  I've taken some time to read as much as I can about it. For example, you know, their support of defunding police, I do not support. Safety and security is important. Are there certain reforms that need to be made to law enforcement? Absolutely. And Senator Tim Scott's proposed bill in the Senate I thought was a good start to that. But the idea of totally defunding police, I do not support. We need law and order. We need safety and security. We need safety and security in all communities. And we need to make sure that law enforcement agencies are reformed to the extent that bad cops are out of the system, we get them out of the system, that there's better training and law enforcement to de-escalate problems. So there are reforms that need to be had but certainly not defunding police.

Peter Biello: Well, one of the reforms that has been suggested was not necessarily wiping out a police budget, but reallocating some of the money that was dedicated to police officers, police departments, and putting it towards social services and mental health services. Is that something you would support?

Corky Messner: Well, I support funding for social services and mental health services for sure. I think those are very, very important things. I don't believe that that should be done at the expense of less money for law enforcement. We can do both..


Peter Biello: There've been calls in recent weeks to take down Confederate statues and monuments in many communities. President Trump says he's concerned about eracing the country's heritage.  What are your thoughts on that?


Corky Messner: I think it's important that we look at what's going on with respect to monuments and statues and identify the various vandalism that has been going on.  For example. I think taking down statues of Ulysses S. Grant, vandalizing statues of Abraham Lincoln, taking down statues of abolitionists, that doesn't make sense to me.

Peter Biello: Does it would it make sense for you to take down, for example, the statues of Robert E. Lee or other Confederate monuments?


Corky Messner: Yes. I was going to go there, I think with respect to monuments to Confederate generals and honoring the Confederacy, yes, those statues need to come down. I think you need to do it in a reasoned way with the local community and do it in a way that doesn't incite more violence and the violence that's going on in tearing them down. I  believe that some of those statues should be in museums with full disclosure of what those folks did and what the Confederacy stood for.

Peter Biello: I want to get your take on some issues related to the pandemic, Bryant Corky Messner. This one is not the first pandemic the world has seen and there may be another one someday. So how can we better prepare for the next one?

Corky Messner: I think it's really, really important  that we have a thorough review of the actions that were taken in this pandemic. In fact, one of the things I've done since this started was to go back and start reading about what happened with the pandemic in 2010, the H1N1 pandemic, and what the government did in response to that. And there are a lot of lessons to be learned here, a lot of lessons, including how much can we trust the Chinese Communist Party? And we ought to learn everything we can from this and be prepared in the future because, yeah, there will be others.

Peter Biello:  But what would that preparation consist of, in your view? What should it consist of next time around?


Corky Messner: Well, one of the things we've learned clearly is that we need to have more stockpiles of PPE. That was clearly a problem. The other thing is we need to have a capability in this country to manufacture those things that we might need in a pandemic and not rely on the Chinese Communist Party to supply us with PPE and other things. So those are very simple preparations that we can make. I think we need to look at, you know, how the reporting occurred from the Chinese Communist Party to the World Health Organization and what information was flowing and how accurate it was, and what can we do to improve the flow of information in situations like this.


Peter Biello: Scientists say wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to prevent unknowingly transmitting the coronavirus to other people. Some have called for local governments to mandate mask wearing. Would you be in favor of such a mandate?


Corky Messner: You know, it's interesting about masks. In my reading about the H1N1 pandemic in 2010, I found part of a paper that was talking about masks, and it was the same debate that's going on now. And and, you know, so, yes, I support wearing a mask. No, I don't support a mandatory mask order. 

Peter Biello: Public health officials say President Trump's rally in Tulsa likely contributed to a surge in new coronavirus cases there. To what extent are you worried that the president's rally tomorrow in Portsmouth will have a similar result here in New Hampshire?


Corky Messner: Well, you know, I think I think Granite Staters are responsible. I think they will follow the guidelines. This rally is going to be outside as I understand it. There's going to be hand sanitizer. There's going to be masks provided. There'll be plenty of room for social distancing andI think responsible Granite Staters will exercise caution accordingly.

Peter Biello: You've been endorsed by President Trump. Will you be at the rally tomorrow in Portsmouth?


Corky Messner:  I will be at the rally tomorrow in Portsmouth. And I will greet the president when he comes off of Air Force One. And I will be speaking at the rally before the president.


Peter Biello: And will you be wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, all the guidelines that have been put out by scientists and health officials?

Corky Messner: Yeah, the procedures that I have to go through to meet the president include getting tested tomorrow, after which I will be sequestered before he comes off the plane. I will have a mask with me and I may or may not have it on depending on the situation with others and the social distancing. And I would want to ensure that others were tested as I was.


Peter Biello: You've said in the past you're very concerned about federal spending and the federal debt. The federal government has spent a lot of money on coronavirus relief to help ease the economic toll of this pandemic. Is that spending, in your view, an example of good, necessary spending?

Corky Messner: Well, I think the first thing to look at when you  look at the CARES Act and the spending on the COVID 19 situation, is you have to look at it through the prism of $21 trillion, $22 trillion dollars of debt incurred prior to the COVID 19 situation and that out of control government spending for decades, you know, has to be addressed.  

Now, the spending that occurred with respect to the COVID 19 situation I think was necessary and appropriate. I think it was done quickly. And we're seeing that there  were situations when it wasn't done as efficiently as possible, but I think it's incredibly important that we support the economy because as I see it, with the government shutdown of the economy, it it's almost like a taking of people's businesses and the government should therefore help them.


Peter Biello: We get this one question from someone named Christian in Newmarket who wanted to put this to you, Christian writes: “ Pro Trump, pro-business, pro-life, anti-democratic. Why does Corky believe this is the winning combination to get elected in November?”

Corky Messner: Yeah, thanks for the question. That's a good one. That description doesn't completely describe me, but I believe that Granite Staters believe in individual liberty and economic freedom and and those things are what will bring jobs back. Those things are what will help our businesses. Granite Staters want safety and security. They want law and order. In order for an economy to function, in order for our kids to be safe in school, there has to be safety and security. All those things go together. And Granite Staters are looking for that, especially after two years of a Democrat-controlled state House and state Senate and executive council.


Peter Biello: Was there a way you would correct the description Christian put forward? He said pro Trump, pro-business, pro-life, anti Democrat.


Corky Messner: Yeah, I'm pro freedom, I'm pro economic freedom, I am pro individual liberty, I am pro Constitution. I believe in civil liberties. I believe in equality for all. I believe everyone should have an opportunity to pursue the American dream. And that is much broader. I believe in less government.I think one thing that is clear, should be clear to everyone, is government isn't good at creating jobs. Government isn't very efficient or effective at spending money. And so so there's so much more. But that's I'm glad to go on, if you'd like.

Peter Biello: Well, let me put another question from a listener to you. Seems relevant right now. Beth writes: “How can we get the economy moving again back to what it was pre-pandemic. She'd like to know your thoughts on helping small businesses get back on their feet. What specific things would you do in the Senate to make that happen?

Corky Messner:Yes, well, I think the CARES Act was a good start. And I think to the extent small businesses need additional support, that would be good. I have a on my website, CorkyforSenate.com, what we call the Messner USA plan, unleashing the strength of America. And included in that plan is a a payroll tax holiday for small businesses, which will immediately put money into employees’ pockets, as well as the businesses’ pockets, reducing taxes, get government out of the way so these businesses can come back. Yesterday, I visited a health club down in Salem,and the innovation and the creativity that is going on out there and in these businesses, following Governor Sununu’s guidelines to open safely,it really impressed me at this place, because they know, business people know in order to get their business back, they not only need to open it, but they need to open it in a way that their customers feel safe. And they set up their whole health club to address all of the guidelines set out by Governor Sununu. And businesses will do that because they know that in order to get their customers back, the customers have to feel safe. So there's plenty of economic incentives, with the payroll tax holiday and lowering taxes and reducing government regulation, to help these businesses come back.


Peter Biello: I've got a question here about health care from Peggy who writes: “President Trump has once again proposed repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. He has campaigned on repeal and replace yet has made no replace plan in a time when access to health care is vital. What would your stance on that be?


Corky Messner: Well, I absolutely agree that access to health care is very, very important right now. And we need to make sure everybody has access to health care. You know, there is a lawsuit going on that was actually brought by several states regarding the constitutionality of Obamacare and that lawsuit is ongoing. Nobody anticipates that's going to be decided any time soon.


Peter Biello: As we wrap up Mr. Messner, I just want to clarify: So do you support repeal? And if so, do you have an idea of what you would like to see in a replacement?


Corky Messner: Yeah, well, the replacement I would like to see involves several factors, one of which is, there should be no restriction to people getting health care because of preexisting conditions. So everyone should be entitled to get health care no matter what their condition is. That's one. Two, everyone should have access to health care. And right now in New Hampshire, ninety four percent of the people in New Hampshire have health insurance, right now. And then thirdly, I think we need to bring down the cost of health care. And there's a number of ways to do that. One is transparency, so we as consumers of health care can make informed market decisions about the health care we get. The other thing we need to do is we need tort reform in health care. Frivolous lawsuits add a tremendous amount of money to our health care system, and that will help bring down the costs, if we have tort reform.  I think the other thing we ought to keep in place is allowing people, children to stay on their health insurance until the age of 26. I think that's a good thing. But it's very important to get the cost of health care down, that we allow more market forces to work here, including transparency.


Peter Biello: Bryant Corky Mesner is running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.  Mr. Messner,  thank you very much for joining us. I'm sorry we couldn't speak for longer, but we really appreciate you spending some time with us.


Corky Messner: Any time. I'm glad to come back. 

Peter Biello: You have a great day. 

Corky Messner: Thank you.

Peter Biello: This is the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on the Exchange on NHPR. I'm Peter Biello.