Meet the Republicans running for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire: Kevin Smith
Leading up to New Hampshire’s state primary on Sept. 13, we've asked local voters to share what issues they most want to see candidates talk about this election season.
With a wide open Republican primary for U.S. Senate, NHPR is speaking with the top candidates in that race to learn more about where they stand on some of the most common concerns voters shared with us. The winner of that primary will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in November.
Read on for NHPR Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley’s interview with former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith.
What questions do you have for the candidates running for governor, U.S. Senator and Congress? What issues do you most want them to address while seeking your vote? Share your thoughts here.
Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.
Rick Ganley: There's been a lot of misinformation around election security and voter fraud, both nationwide and here in New Hampshire. An NPR poll from earlier this year found that 64% of Americans believe that U.S. democracy is in crisis. Do you believe that the 2020 election was conducted fairly?
Kevin Smith: Well, here's what we do know is that there were irregularities in a number of states. We start right here in New Hampshire. We've seen instances in the towns of Bedford, Laconia, Windham, where there have been irregularities in the voting. And the Attorney General's Office has investigated all of those things. Look, election integrity, it's a pillar of our democracy and people want to be sure, and people on both sides of the aisle, want to make sure that the elections are fair and that they're being conducted fairly. And I believe we need to do that. Here's what I don't agree with. I don't agree with where Senator Hassan has stood on this issue. You know, she voted to get rid of the filibuster in the Senate a year ago, not even a year ago, this year, because she wanted to federalize our elections right here in New Hampshire. And so I think we need to have local control over our elections and just make sure that they are conducted as fairly as possible.
(Editor’s note: The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office uncovered election administration errors and other problems with ballot counting in Bedford, Laconia’s Ward 6 and Windham during the 2020 general election. However, state officials attributed those issues to human error; they found no evidence of foul play or illegal voting. All three locations will have state-appointed election monitors during the September primary. You can read more details here.)
Rick Ganley: Many people here in New Hampshire are struggling with costs of day-to-day living as inflation nears a four-decade high. What are some approaches at the federal level that you would support to immediately help lower the costs for people living here?
Kevin Smith: I think there's two main things. One is we have to stop all the spending that's going on in Washington. All of the recent votes, the $700 billion vote on all of the climate change policy that was voted on, and Maggie Hassan voted in favor of, to this latest college debt bailout, if you will. All of this spending, the COVID monies, it's all led to a lot of the inflation that we're feeling today. So we have to stop printing money in Washington. I've said we have to go back to a balanced budget. We have to go back to the Gramm-Rudman law from the 1980s, which said that you had to have a balanced budget every year or else there were automatic budget cuts. So that's one way you can bring down the cost of inflation. The other thing you can do is go back to being energy independent because as we know, as energy costs go higher, so does inflation. So the more we can become energy dependent here at home, unleash domestic drilling here, having an all of the above approach, including nuclear energy, and just find ways to become more energy independent. We did it a year and a half ago. We can do it again, take the suspensions off of publicly leased land. All of these things are steps that will help bring down the cost of energy, which helps bring down the cost of inflation. But it has to first start with getting our budget under control.
Rick Ganley: Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, some states across the country have put in place severe restrictions on abortion. Would you support federal restrictions on abortion?
Kevin Smith: You know, I would have to look at any individual piece of legislation. I'd have to read it to see what's in it before I would say I would vote on anything federally. I do think this matter is probably best left to the states. It's why I agreed with the Dobbs decision. And look, the people of New Hampshire will now have a voice in how they want to handle abortion going forward.
Rick Ganley: Would you support more abortion restrictions here in the Granite State?
Kevin Smith: You know, again, I think it's best left to the Legislature to determine that and also having the voters be able to weigh in on that with their local legislators. I'm pro-life. I have a pro-life voting record from when I was in the Legislature, and it's not something that I shy away from. That being said, I think each individual piece has to be looked at separately of legislation. And again, what I do not support is taxpayer funding of abortion. One of my opponents in this race, Chuck Morse, voted last month in the Finance Committee to authorize $2 million for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers in the state. That is a vote I would have voted no on and he supported.
Rick Ganley: Even if that money does not go to abortions, per se?
Kevin Smith: Well, look, the money's fungible. We know that. They're abortion providers. And I would say it's better to be safe and not give money, taxpayer funding, to abortion providers in the state.
(Editor’s note: A 2021 audit from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services found that state funding for family planning clinics does not go toward abortion services. You can read more on the debate over state funding for these clinics here.)
Rick Ganley: Out of all the responses we receive from our listeners asking what's on their minds this election season, the top issue by far that people said they were concerned about is climate change. I want to ask you, do you believe that climate change poses a threat to the health of the planet?
Kevin Smith: Look, I believe climate change is happening, but I think we have to take a very balanced approach to it. We need to be good stewards of the earth and good stewards of the land. I don't believe in pollution, obviously, but I think we always have to take a balanced approach to this. In many ways, I believe climate change has become a religion to the far left. You know, there's a study that came out which has been debunked by a lot of places, but now is saying, well, climate change is responsible for obesity in children. It seems like they want to blame climate change on everything today. I think we need a very balanced approach to our environment. Look, if you look at the standards we use in the United States compared to a lot of countries, we have a lot more stringent standards here than they do overseas. I think the United States has done a very good job of making sure that we're putting as little amount of pollution into the environment as possible. But there always has to be that balanced approach at the same time.
Rick Ganley: I hear you say balance, but I'm asking you, what specifically would you support? What specifically would you not support?
Kevin Smith: Here's what I don't support. I don't support the Green New Deal. I don't support just flipping the switch on fossil fuels to green energy overnight, because we know the economics don't work on it right now. That being said, I'm all for increasing the technology and improvements on green energy, but I think it has to be a phased in approach. I don't think you can get rid of fossil fuels overnight.
Rick Ganley: Is anybody calling for that?
Kevin Smith: Well, certainly yeah, I believe the Biden administration is calling for it. I think that's one of the reasons why, you know, they've stopped a lot of the domestic energy production here at home, because I think they want to phase us in immediately to green energy overnight. I think that's one of the reasons for the high gas prices. I mean, why are we looking to our enemies like Venezuela and Iran for oil and gas right now when we could be getting it here at home? And so I don't believe the Biden administration is taking a balanced approach to this at all.
(Editor’s note: On the campaign trail, President Biden pledged to halt new oil and gas development on federal land and waters. However, his administration has since taken steps to open public lands to fossil fuel development.)
Rick Ganley: Let's turn to immigration and border policy. It's a concern that many voters have in this upcoming election. What's one specific immigration policy that you could support or you would propose in the U.S. Senate?
Kevin Smith: I have heard from a lot of small business owners here in the state that they would love for our legal immigration process to be easier. There's a backlog right now with folks looking to get work visas, green cards, and there's a lot of jobs that need to be filled right now. And they could certainly be filled by legal immigrants. But we have an illegal immigration problem in the country right now, too. We have an open border right now. And this is acknowledged by both Republicans and Democrats. I went down to the border myself, saw the problem firsthand with the National Border Patrol Council. We need to go back to the "Remain in Mexico" policy. We need to complete the border wall in strategic areas along the southern border. I believe we need an E-verify or similar system here in the United States. And so we need to secure the border first. But at the same time, let's make our legal process easier. It shouldn't be easier to get in the country illegally than it is legally, which is what it seems like right now.
(Editor’s note: According to the program’s website, E-verify is available nationwide. While some states require employers to use the program, that’s not the case everywhere — including in New Hampshire.)