First Congressional District candidates Eddie Edwards (R) and Chris Pappas (D) met today in the first of five general election debates.
In the forum at NHPR's studios, the two came down on opposite sides of nearly every issue, except for the question of personal identity.
If Pappas wins, he would be New Hampshire's first openly gay congressman. If Edwards wins, he would be the state's first black congressman.
But both candidates said the historic nature of their race was no big deal.
When NHPR's Lauren Chooljian asked Edwards about it, he said:
"It would mean nothing; it really would not ... I think the notion that we start to believe that we're special because of our sexual orientation, our race, our gender -- we do a disservice to every born in this country. I'm not special because I'm black. Chris is not special because he's gay. You're not special because you're a woman. We're special because of what we give back to our communities, our nation, and our families."
Edwards went on to say it's progressives, not conservatives, who have discriminated against him, accusing him of being an Uncle Tom.
When Chooljian asked Pappas about the potential significance of becoming New Hampshire's first openly gay congressman, he said:
"It's not meaningful to me. But I truly believe that we're all in this together and that by telling your own story, you can ensure that other people are accepted in their communities and can live their truth and pursue a healthy and successful life."
Pappas said he has experienced discrimination based on his sexual orientation, but not during the campaign.
Click here to listen to the full forum on The Exchange. Some highlights include:
- On the economy, Edwards credits Republican leadership and tax cuts for growth: "The economy is doing really well; people are really engaging in entrepreneurship. But we have to get our spending under control. You know, having more money in your pocket and government spending more - I think is inappropriate."
- On the economy, Pappas says the middle class is shrinking, and N.H. is facing a workforce shortage: "The top concerns I hear from local businesses aren't necessarily that taxes are too high or that they're over-regulated; they're worried about where their workers are going to come from, the ones that they need to find today, or the ones they're going to need to replace people that are of retirement age."
- On gun control, Edwards blames a culture of violence, not guns: "The 2nd Amendment is very important. All of our Bill of Rights are very important. These are birth rights. And I think when you get to a place where the government is not restrained, then we don't hold people accountable. We have a problem with violence in our country; not guns. ... The vast majority of our young people see - 47 percent of their cartoons, for instance, are violent."
- On gun control, Pappas says: "I support the responsible culture of gun ownership that exists here in New Hampshire of people to hunt, to collect, to defend their homes, but I refuse to believe that we can't support that while at the same time taking common sense steps to save lives and keep our communities safe. You know, if my opponent had his way, he would repeal federal background checks outright. "
- On the environment, Pappas calls for re-entering the Paris Climate Agreement and prioritizing off-shore wind over off-shore drilling: "This is a national security threat that we face and we're already feeling the impacts here in New Hampshire, in terms of sea level rise in terms of the power of storms that are hitting our state. So look, we've got to be prepared for this."
- On the environment, Edwards says human activity is not the primary driver of climate change, and calls for businesses to fuel energy innovation: "If we invite the free market in to help drive these solutions, they will be realized ... So the best thing we could do for our energy solutions, is to have the government take a step back."
WATCH the livestream video: