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Hassan, Bolduc meet for final debate in key U.S. Senate race

Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, of New Hampshire seen on Oct. 11 and Don Bolduc, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire seen on Oct. 5.
Charles Krupa and Mary Schwalm
Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, of New Hampshire seen on Oct. 11 and Don Bolduc, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire seen on Oct. 5.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan on Wednesday accused her Republican challenger of changing his positions to hide his extremism, while Don Bolduc accused the Democratic incumbent of being steadfast in evading questions.

In their third and final debate before next Tuesday's election, Hassan repeatedly cast Bolduc as an extremist, pouncing on his past statements on abortion, voter fraud and other issues.

Closing arguments: New Hampshire's U.S. Senate race

Find more 2022 election coverage on NHPR

Bolduc, a retired Army general, spent months promoting Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election but after winning the Republican primary in September said it wasn't stolen and then, more recently, said that he wasn't sure. And in a debate last week, he brought up unfounded claims about busloads of voters casting illegal ballots in New Hampshire, which Trump himself mentioned in endorsing Bolduc on Monday.

Asked to explain Wednesday why his position keeps changing, Bolduc insisted it hasn't.

"I have said on 14 September, it was not stolen. That's it. I'm not discussing it anymore," he said. "We need to move forward. Elections are about the future, and if we leave the future in Sen. Hassan's hands, we're going to be in big trouble."

Asked what she thought of his answer, Hassan called him "the most extreme nominee for U.S. Senate that New Hampshire has seen in modern history."

"He keeps trying to conceal that from Granite Staters," said Hassan, a former governor seeking a second term in Washington. "He's spent over a year in New Hampshire stoking the big lie... and former President Trump just confirmed that he's an election denier this week."

That prompted a sarcastic response from Bolduc, who thanked the WMUR-TV moderator for "giving her a softball because she can't hit a fastball." He did not object, earlier, however, when he similarly was asked to opine on one of Hassan's answers.

Throughout the debate, Bolduc accused Hassan of failing to answer questions and instead giving "Washington, D.C., career politician non-answers."

"That's what she's going to get away with up here, all night long," he said after Hassan was asked whether federal government overspending has led to inflation. She acknowledged the hardship inflation has inflicted, and described her work on the bipartisan infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed last year and the $280 billion package aimed at creating more high-tech jobs by boosting the semiconductor industry and scientific research.

On his turn to talk about government spending and inflation, Bolduc said he would've voted against the COVID-19 relief bills in Washington and that the best way to lower inflation would be reversing the Biden administration's "disastrous" energy policies that Hassan supports.

"Everything she does causes more infrastructure, more government, more money, more pain and hardship for Americans," he said.

On abortion, Bolduc again was confronted with his past statements. While he now says he opposes a national abortion ban, in the past he has said would never oppose anti-abortion legislation ("I'm not going to vote contrary to pro-life").

"I will not vote for any federal legislation that has to do with abortion," he said. "I believe in states' rights and in the state law. And that is the end of the discussion."

But Hassan argued he can't be trusted given his conflicting statements.

"He is a yes vote for a nationwide abortion ban and he's trying to conceal it," she said.

When asked to name a world leader they admire, Bolduc came up short, declining to name one, while Hassan cited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. But they found one brief moment of common ground when asked about their favorite menu item at a popular Manchester diner. Bolduc said he likes to order pancakes. "That sounds good to me," Hassan said.

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