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0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8f8a0000Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers leads NHPR's reporting on the 2016 race for U.S. Senate.

Ayotte, Hassan Clash Over Independence on Issues - And From Trump and Clinton

Kelly Ayotte and Maggie Hassan debated Friday morning on WGIR. The two senate candidates clashed over who was more independent on the issues – and, of their respective parties' unpopular presidential nominees.

This debate was the first in this race since Kelly Ayotte renounced Donald Trump last week. And Ayotte worked to turn her high-profile dumping of Trump into a plus, by linking Governor Hassan to Hillary Clinton. Ayotte did it every chance she got.

“I will stand up to anyone in the oval office if I don’t think they are doing the right thing for New Hampshire, and I think this is a very big difference in this race. I would ask your listeners to consider if Governor Hassan would ever stand up to Hillary Clinton, strongly, on anything of significance."

Citing Guantanomo Bay, which she would keep open; Syrian refugees, who she would temporarily bar from the country; and the interent sales tax, which she opposes, Hassan argued she has broken with top Democrats, including Clinton.

“I will never fail to stand up to leaders in my own party as I have.”

She then pivoted back to Trump.

“What you didn’t hear my opponent say is why she supported Donald Trump for over a year as he made one sexist comment after the next, as he made one racist comment after the next, as he made fun of people with disabilities. He is a man who seems to think cruelty is a sport, and her support for him is unacceptable.”

On rebuttal, Senator Ayotte said. “Well, first of all I’ve renounced Donald Trump’s statements on many occasions on the issues Governor Hassan has identified. And I’ve clearly said where I stand on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – I won’t be voting for either of them.”

Ayotte and Hassan also traded charges on campaign finances. This race is already the most expensive in state history. Outside spending has topped $50 million, and both have raised big money from interests far and wide.

“She has stood with Wall Street in voting against closing tax loopholes for hedge fund managers. She’s stood with big oil over and over again. So the record is there and I am happy to stalk about it," Hassan said.

“You know this is one of Governor Hassan’s favorite talking points," Ayotte responded. "When, you know, there’s been, and you’ve looked at your TV -- we could be up to 100 million dollars in this race -- of wanting to keep special; interest money out of this race. I’ve offered the People’s Pledge, the same one that was in place in the Massachusetts Senate race, that Senator Shaheen offered, she didn’t want to keep this money out.”

Ayotte also questioned Hassan’s record managing the state’s finances, and the budget. Hassan now touts a state budget that cut business taxes, when those tax cuts originally drew her veto, which Ayotte suggested was hypocritical.

“She proposed in her budget a 25% increase in car registration, she proposed numerous tax increases, and she vetoed the budget she now claims credit for.”

Hassan dismissed that argument, which is also made by local Republicans, as emblematic of why more things get done at state house than at the U.S. Capital.

“It’s not surprising to hear Senator Ayotte, after her years in Washignton, fail to appreciate that I can actually stand up for fiscal responsibility as I did when I vetoed the budget, and then work across party lines to broker a compromise.”

The most recent poll in this races, released by WBUR shows this race deadlocked.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
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