First Congressional District candidates Eddie Edwards and Chris Pappas faced off at New Hampshire Public Radio today for their first, live debate of the general election. Edwards, a Republican from Dover, is a former chief of law enforcement for the state Liquor Commission. Pappas, a Democrat from Manchester, is a restaurateur and current Executive Councilor for District 4.
NHPR's Lauren Chooljian, one of the debate moderators, joined All Things Considered host Peter Biello to discuss how the debate went.
So let's start with a classic debate question. The 1st Congressional District primary was pretty heated - did we see any fireworks or attacks between Pappas and Edwards?
I mean - the first thing I’ll say is if voters learned anything from this debate - it’s that these two guys hardly agree on any of big issues 1st district voters care about - I'll give you the spark notes version.
On the environment - Edwards doesn’t believe human activity is a big driver of climate change, while Pappas sees climate change as a national security threat.
On raising the federal minimum wage - Pappas says he’d vote for it. Edwards says absolutely not.
On healthcare - Edwards says the Affordable Care Act hasn’t worked and has driven up costs. Pappas says he fundamentally believes everyone should have access to health care and would stop Republicans from trying to undermine it.
Now you’re right - the primary was pretty rough, especially near the end. But the candidates voters chose - Pappas and Edwards - are two seemingly nice guys? And so while they pointedly disagreed with each other, there weren’t any cheap shots or aggression there.
I thought the Union Leader nailed it with this headline: Pappas, Edwards disagree — respectfully — on host of issues at NHPR debate.
Was there a moment that stuck out to you that highlights this respectful disagreement?
I think I’d point to the conversation about gun violence. This is a district - and a state - where many people proudly own and shoot guns. But there are also many people in the district who believe strongly that gun control will prevent mass shootings.
And Pappas and Edwards both try to bridge that divide a bit - but also stick to their party principles - as you can hear in these clips.
Here’s Edwards first:
EDWARDS: "We have a culture here in the state of New Hampshire that respects and appreciates life, freedom and liberty. We don’t have the same problem we’re seeing around the nation and those are horrible situations. I have two daughters, I can’t imagine being a parent and your child not coming back to home to you in the condition that they went to school in. But that doesn't’ mean that I restrict somehow restricting law abiding citizens."
And then Pappas - who supports banning so-called assault weapons:
PAPPAS: "I support the responsible culture of gun ownership that exists here in NH 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 community safe."
Again that was 1st Congressional District candidate - Democrat Chris Pappas on gun control. Lauren, do you think this debate helped move the needle for people who consider themselves independent or who are undecided in this race?
You know, I don’t really know. I think it was certainly helpful because this was the first chance most people have had to listen to them side by side and without the chaos of the crowded primary.
But this question of where independent voters go in such a chaotic, divisive election year - is one I’ve been thinking a lot about. And so I asked both candidates how they’re pitching themselves to people who aren’t very partisan.
They both say they chat with voters about work they've done outside of politics. Edwards talks about being in the military and law enforcement, where he had to work with people he disagreed with. Pappas talks about working at the Puritan - and the pressures of being a business owner.
And they try and sell their personalities. Edwards says people in the district are looking for a representative with integrity, while Pappas says he tells people he will fight for them, but he won't’ be the angriest person in the room.
But these two have four more scheduled debates for voters to sort this out - plus, it’s 2018 - anything could happen nationally over the next few weeks that could influence the race.
That’s NHPR State of Democracy Reporter Lauren Chooljian. She helped moderate our debate this morning between Democrat Chris Pappas and Republican Eddie Edwards.
NHPR will rebroadcast the 1st District debate at 7 p.m. Oct. 10.