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In 1st District Republican primary debate, congressional candidates find agreement on Trump, Biden, China

screenshot of debate
Facebook/NH Journal
Republican candidates for CD1 took part in a debate hosted by New Hampshire Journal

During a mostly cordial Republican primary debate Thursday night, candidates in the 1st Congressional District united around some common themes, including a push to return to Trump era-policies, and a pressing need to counter China.

At the event hosted by New Hampshire Journal, Gail Huff Brown, a former television broadcaster and spouse of Scott Brown, a former U.S. senator and ambassador during the Trump Administration, said she is hearing a desire from Republican voters to go back to Trump’s economic approach.

“Things were so much better then, than they are now,” said Brown. “I mean right now, just look at the world around us. In the past year, we are like a sinking ship.”

Of the five candidates on stage, two worked for the Trump Administration, along with Huff Brown’s diplomatic role, while two others supported it from afar. Matt Mowers, who won the 2020 GOP nomination for the 1st Congressional District, served as an advisor in the State Department. Asked about if he would support congressional action to limit abortion rights nationally, he declined to directly address the question but said that he supported a “culture of life.”

Karoline Leavitt, a graduate of St. Anselm College, which hosted the debate, worked in the Trump Administration’s press office. She regularly invoked the need to return to the former president’s “America First” foreign policy. Leavitt also went farther than any candidate on the topic of the 2020 election, claiming it was “stolen” and that “Joe Biden did not win 81 million votes,” despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Tim Baxter, a state representative who founded a non-profit to serve people with substance misuse disorder, pushed his credentials as a “conservative fighter,” saying he would root out corruption in Washington. He also called for the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service, Centers for Disease Control and federal Department of Education at various times during the debate.

Russ Prescott, a former state executive councilor and business owner, used his opening remarks to stress his ability to be “positive, not tearing down other people, so that when you get to Washington you can actually work with people.”

“I will maintain my conservative values, but I will work with anyone who is willing to talk,” he added.

The candidates were largely in agreement on the need to contain China, as well as build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, saying it would curtail the inflow of opioids. They also all spoke against canceling student debt, or imposing tight restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The winner of the September 13th Republican primary will face two-term incumbent Chris Pappas, a Democrat from Manchester, in the general election.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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