Meet the Candidates: Lynne Blankenbeker, Republican Running for 2nd CD | New Hampshire Public Radio

Meet the Candidates: Lynne Blankenbeker, Republican Running for 2nd CD

Aug 20, 2020

Lynne Blankenbeker
Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR

The Exchange continues its summer series of primary candidate interviews with Republican Lynne Blankenbeker. She's running in New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District. Blankenbeker has served in the Middle East for the U.S. Air Force as an officer and trauma flight nurse, and later in the Navy Reserve Nurse Corps. She is an attorney and a former N.H. State Representative, and served as a healthcare policy advisor at the Pentagon.  As always, we welcome your questions - send them before the show to exchange@nhpr.org.

Air date: Friday, Aug. 21, 9-9:20 am

To hear this conversation, which was part of the Aug. 21 Weekly N.H. News Roundup, click here!

Transcript:

This is a computer-generated transcript, and may contain errors. 

Peter Biello: 

From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Peter Biello and this is the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup on The Exchange.

Peter Biello:
Former state representative and military veteran Lynne Blankenbeker is hoping to be the Republican to unseat incumbent Democrat Annie Kuster in New Hampshire's 2nd District. She says she's hoping to reform our broken health care system and supports physical barriers like walls in efforts to stop illegal immigration. For the first part of this program, we'll be speaking with Blankenbeker about these and other positions she's taken ahead of the September 8th primary. Lynne Blankenbeker, thank you very much for joining us today. We really appreciate it.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Thank you so much. It's always a pleasure to speak with you.

Peter Biello:
You ran for Congress two years ago. That's the last time we spoke. What prompted you to run again this year? What about your campaign do you think will resonate with voters this time that maybe didn't in 2018?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Well, you know, my motivations are still the same. We need a congresswoman who's going to stand strong for the state of New Hampshire.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
And and so we're going to give it another go. We've changed everything with this campaign. You know, last time I was in a very crowded field of seven folks trying to vie for the nomination. And I was late as you may recall. I was on active duty well into January. And so I was one of the last folks in the race.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
But we came in, we had a really strong showing. We came, you know, the number one, two and three were all within just a handful of votes. And and so we did really well. We raised $138,000 and we just spent within our budget and, you know, we gave it a good go.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
But what we learned was that we didn't have enough time or money for messaging. And so this time we got a whole new team. We went with a whole new approach. The very first thing was we filmed the commercials so that we were able to get that out, so that we could get our message out. And we started a little bit earlier. We've been moving and shaking and we've been all over the district.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Yesterday, as a matter of fact, I was in Grafton County, Coos County, and managed to have a presence in Sullivan County with a proxy or a surrogate and was in Nashua because, you know, this COVID crisis, One thing that it has done for us, the little silver lining, it has given us this new Zoom technology that makes it possible to be at the northernmost part and the southernmost part of this district, all at the same time.

Peter Biello:
Virtual events working for your campaign.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Yes, we're using every resource we have.

Peter Biello:
Well well, let's talk a little bit about the pandemic. We didn't, we obviously didn't talk about that last time around. So I'd be curious what you think Congress should be doing right now, that Congress is not doing to to address it?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Well, you know, we're learning a lot every single day. I've been in health care my whole life. Thirty four years I've been in health care delivery, health care law, health care policy development and health care legislation. And, you know, when I was at the Pentagon, we studied pandemics. We studied what would happen if we had a biological attack or a nuclear attack or a chemical attack on this country. And what our medical response would be to that.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
You know, the funny thing is, in all of that, we never once had a discussion about a toilet paper crisis. And I think that I say that kind of jokingly, but that's the truth. Well, one of the things that we didn't really think about back in 2012 and 2013 was the impact social media would have on folks spreading information and perhaps misinformation that sparked a lot of fear.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
And so I think that messaging is really important. We have responded as a nation based on models and adjusted course accordingly when those models showed to be either flawed or not going in the right direction. And so we have to continue to learn.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
You know, when I first became a nurse in the early 1980s or 1980s, AIDS didn't even have a name yet. And I remember as a brand new nursing student, we didn't even wear gloves to start IVs or draw blood. And then we learned there was a scary virus out there that was deadly. And we knew it was passed through body fluids, but we didn't know which ones at that point. And then we started suiting up almost like we were going into a nuclear reactor to carry, you know, body fluids. We didn't even know if it was passed in tears. And we learned about the virus and we've learned a lot. And in 40 years, think about how far we've come. We've learned how to prevent the spread and we've learned how to protect people. We have developed medications to get control of it. And in the country still, we're still 40 years later working on a vaccine.

Peter Biello:
So is there something Congress should be doing now, given what we have learned in the past half year about this this virus that the that Congress isn't doing that you would like to do as as someone serving as a representative from New Hampshire Second District?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Well, I think there are people in Congress working on figuring out what happened, and that is exactly what I would like to do when I get to Congress, is to get on the Science and Technology Committee, where I'm able to work with the legislators that are pulling the string on this and figuring out just what happened in China. You know, there's a lot of issues with China.

Peter Biello:
But I mean, why does it matter what happened in China? I mean, it's here now and Congress is doing, I imagine, what they think is best to to address it. But you were running for Congress to make changes. So you want to find out what happened. How relevant is that right now, given how widespread it is here compared to, say, Europe?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Very relevant, because we have, what we learned was that we were very dependent on China for medications. We were very dependent on China for protective equipment. We need to figure out all of it. This isn't just about how do you contain a virus. It's also how do we respond. And if we cannot access personal protective equipment, if we cannot access medication, if we cannot access medical devices and we can't treat any illness in this country. And so there is there's a lot of this it's not just containing a virus. It's also how are we going to respond to it? Do we have the resources? Do we have the medical professionals? And can we get our hands on those resources? And what we discovered was we couldn't. And so there's a lot to this. We've got to bring manufacturing back to this country where we're able to be self-sufficient when it comes to this. We can't get in this position again.

Peter Biello:
Listeners, we're speaking today with Lynne Blankenbeker, a veteran and former state rep who is running for Congress in New Hampshire's 2nd District in the Republican primary. What questions do you have for her? And I want to shift gears, Lynne Blankenbeker, and ask you about racial injustice and the protests we've seen throughout the summer. If you are elected to Congress, what steps would you take in Congress to address racial injustice?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Well, I'm really glad you asked that question. So, you know, first and foremost, I want to make it clear that I'm a firm believer in the Constitution and our First Amendment right to be able to assemble.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
We have seen how peaceful and I want, you know, I want to underscore that word, peaceful protesting does raise awareness in this country. And we saw it probably in my lifetime, most, most effectively when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to get just massive amounts of people on the steps in the Mall in Washington, D.C. And we are still quoting Dr. Martin Luther King today from his infamous speech there. And I think that that is so important that we have to listen with the intent to learn, and that is exactly what peaceful protesting is about.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Now, I do not support breaking the law, and the rioting and the looting and the arson and the vandalism and the assault that is criminal and that is against the law. And we should be holding folks who are who are rioting in that manner to the fullest extent of the law.

Peter Biello:
Can I, can I ask you about the rioting with respect to Martin Luther King, who I believe was the person who said rioting is the language of the unheard and you're saying people should be listened to. So what do you think the rioters are saying with their with their violence, regardless of what you think of the violence?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Well, I, I, I will tell you this. Whatever they're saying, we're not hearing the message.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
I mean, I don't think that killing people advances any message. And let me just tell you this. The United States Navy, which I'm a part of, has responded and we do this thing called enduring conversations. And so I am the command equal opportunity officer for my command. And it's my job to make sure that we continue to have discussions within the United States Navy. And perhaps, you know, the country should take a page from the United States Navy playbook. And so we have five guided questions that we sit in an non attributional environment and we have discussions about controversial issues which include injustices.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
And it's amazing. You know, there's a lot of injustices. People are highlighting ways, for example, one person said, you know, I go to a restaurant with my son who is severely autistic, and I get kicked out of the restaurant because my son can't sit like most children in a restaurant. And that felt to him, to that individual was an injustice. And so injustice comes in many, many forms. And and we have these conversations.

And one of the things that I have been hearing over and over and over again from our community, our Black community within the United States Navy, in which, by the way, I want to say that most people say we do a tremendous job with with cultural diversity and respect of diversity in the United States Navy. But what I'm hearing is many people are saying that is not the Black community point of view, rioting, throwing bricks through buildings, looting, catching things on fire. That is not our point of view. Yes, we want to be heard, but that is not how we want to be identified. We don't want to be identified as criminals, we want to be identified as people who want our voice heard, and so there is a difference there and we're listening.

Peter Biello:
So so just to bring back to the original question, in Congress, what what would you plan to do to address racial injustice?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Well, I don't think defunding the police department is, you know, is the way to go.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
One of the nice things that we have the ability to do in Congress, such as Congress has done in the past, like in 1964, they passed the you know, the. Oh, my goodness gracious.

Peter Biello:
Are you asking about the Civil Rights Act?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Yes. Thank you, all I kept coming up with a civil equality. Thank you. Yes. The Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
And so we have the opportunity to legislate so that you can't have discrimination in the workplace and we're going to continue to work towards those efforts.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
I mean, let's sit back and look at it. Here's a really great opportunity right now. Do you know what this week is? It is one hundred years since women in this country got the right to vote. And so we're celebrating with Women's Equality Day. That's coming up next week. And, you know, and we have this opportunity to talk about the progress we've made in this country and this opportunity to celebrate where we've come.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
You know, there was a time, I'll tell you a little story. When my mother was a nurse during World War Two and my mother wasn't allowed to continue to serve in the military because she got married and had children. And when I was a little girl, my mother would grumble under her breath as she was making our school lunches and say, you know, I could be a colonel right now. And in 2013, when my daughter pinned my eagle on to my collar and I achieved the rank, that was an impossibility for my mother, I stood very proud and my first salute was in honor of my mother that I achieved something that was an impossibility for my mother. We are celebrating all of these things. And so we've just got to continue to work towards and it's about listening and it's about learning and it's about making sure that we listen with that intent to learn and take those of those voices forward. I'm very fortunate that I've been in, I've had the opportunity in this country, which is exactly what America's always been about, has been about opportunity. And I've had the opportunity in this country to go to school. I've had this opportunity to earn a degree and serve in our United States military and wear the uniform of the military for thirty four years.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
And now I have the opportunity to have a platform to be able to speak on behalf of all citizens, especially citizens of the state of New Hampshire. And so, yes, we will be talking about this and and listening.

Peter Biello:
So we have this question, Lynne Blankenbeker from Mark in Exeter, who writes to us and says, Please ask the candidate how she plans to pay for the trillions of dollars of necessary federal expenditures for combating the pandemic.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
That is such a great question. And first and foremost, we have to start curbing spending now that the economy is back on the road to recovery.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
We need to rein that in and make sure that we are getting policy in place and breaking down those barriers so that we can get the small businesses back up and running. We're seeing unemployment drop in the state of New Hampshire. I'm so thrilled to see that, especially since tourism is a huge industry here. And we know that if we can get folks back into coming to the state of New Hampshire, that that's going to bolster our economy all the way around. So we've got to continue to put in good policy that's going to support people getting back to work, breaking down those those barriers for people getting to work and making sure that we get the economy jump started again.And I'm completely confident that we will see that happen again.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
But this goes back to looking at China and pulling the string and figuring what happened there. You know, maybe there's an opportunity for reparations given what what happened. We have to figure out we have to get the truth and figure that out, too. So, you know, we're going to continue to work towards those efforts.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
I am very proud to say that I have you know, I was part of the historic budget that we got straightened out in 2010 when I was a member of the legislature here. And we actually ended up with a surplus and was able to put some money in the rainy day fund. And we will I will use those same principles I learned in balancing the state budget in 2010, take those forward to Congress with me and continue to work on those efforts. But I've always been about don't spend more than you take in.

Peter Biello:
Well, let me ask you about that, because two years ago, you supported President Trump's tax cuts and you said, as President Trump did, that the cuts would actually decrease the deficit. And this turned out not to be the case. The deficit has continued to grow every year since twenty fifteen, and it hit nearly a trillion dollars last year, and that was before the pandemic began. So given the high level of borrowing and your incorrect prediction on the deficit, do you stand by that support for the tax cuts?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Well, you got to you can't just look at something for tomorrow. You got to look down the road. And this is the policy going to pan out in the long term. Long term, right. You know, you can't look at, you know, is this going to have an effect tomorrow? But maybe five years, 10 years, 20 years down the road and you've got to change policy like that.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
If we are not visionaries and not looking down the road as to what the long term implications of policy change is going to be, then we're going to be stagnant, so sometimes you do take a hit in the beginning as you move forward. And so, you know, it's investing or whatever. And in this case, you know, I will tell you this, that as I knock doors in the state of New Hampshire and people had fourteen hundred dollars on average extra in their pockets, people were telling me things like, hey, I was able to buy a for a new car for the first time or I was able to do this. And let's face it, if you're out there being able to buy cars and you know that that's a trickle effect on affecting the entire economy, that bolsters everything. And so you've got to look at the long term. We can't be short sighted on that.

Peter Biello:
Our time is short. I do want to ask you about a few more things, if I can.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
You've called our health care system broken and you've been critical of the Affordable Care Act, which expanded the number of insured Americans by about 20 million. You've said on this program that you don't believe the government should be involved in health care. So what does that mean? Should the ACA be repealed without a replacement at all, or should the government have some kind of replacement now that people actually have some kind of government support system for their health care?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
No, I fully believe that the ACA should be repealed, the Affordable Care Act was never affordable. And I will argue with you. Maybe people had access. But when you can't access your care because you can't afford it, then it's not affordable nor accessible. And that drives down quality, especially when the Affordable Care Act's premise was minimum essential coverage, minimum isn't good enough. And no, we know that people, the free market will drive down the cost of health care and we need a whole -.

Peter Biello:
That has been demonstrably untrue.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Well, we we need a wholesale reform. And when I talk about reform, we need to be able to purchase our insurance across state lines so that people can buy the insurance that they need. That's right. For them, not what the government tells them they need. They need to be able to have transparency in pricing. You wouldn't walk into your car dealer and get a new set of brakes on your car without an estimate. Yet you can walk into medical facilities and they will tell you what tests you're going to get. And you have absolutely no idea what that test is going to cost and what your reimbursement is going to be. And we are seeing people with outrageous surprise bills coming from the hospital because they had no idea. We we've got to get control of out-of-control pharmacy pricing and get that under control again. I talked about this about China and manufacturing over there. And we've got to bring that manufacturing back here.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
And, you know, and we need tort reform. Practicing defensive medicine does not equal quality. And this isn't, we have got to have affordable, accessible and quality care. And with thirty four years of health care delivery, living on both sides, a government run health care system that was run by the VA in the United States military and having the privilege of being able to work in civilian for profit and not for profit hospitals, plus health care policy at the highest level at the Pentagon in the defense health headquarters, plus health care legislation here in our own New Hampshire state house and health care law as a health care attorney since 2007, I understand about health care from the from that whole mess.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Let me tell you, there are only 13 members of Congress with any health care background right now. That is bipartisan. Those are doctors, nurses, dentists, and they are trying very hard to bring the right health care reform for the people of this country, that's going to get government out of the decisions in your health care and let you make the decisions about your health care with your provider. And and they need me there. They need me to be part of that fight to bring my expertise to that fight. And there is no other federal candidate, Republican or Democrat, in this race that has the breadth and depth of experience that will be able to bring real, affordable, quality and accessible care to the people of New Hampshire.

Peter Biello:
I want to go to the phones and talk to John in Wilmington. John, thank you very much for calling. What's your question?

Caller:
Well, my question is, I'm wondering how you can support a president that is insulted and berated a Navy veteran, a prisoner of war, a senator of ours, John McCain.

Peter Biello:
Thank you, John. Lynne Blankenbeker.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
I thank you, I appreciate that question.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
So, you know, I've been in the military for 34 years and I have supported every president as my Commander in Chief. I am about wanting America to succeed. And regardless of who our president is, and like I said, I have served under every president since Ronald Reagan and I haven't voted for every one of those presidents since Ronald Reagan. But I will tell you this, first and foremost, I took an oath to for my country to make sure my country would succeed. And part of that success is making sure our president is going to succeed as well. And so we have to work very hard to keep America first. And I am going to continue to push for policies that have been good for this country and especially the Granite State, and make sure that we we continue to to keep America in the Granite State first. So, you know, I'm going to continue to be that supporter.

Peter Biello:
I want to close our conversation with a question about bipartisanship or the possibility of bipartisanship. Is there any issue or a policy idea where you find common ground with Democrats and would be willing to push for that issue with them, even if it's perhaps against something that your own party wants?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Well, you know, I think that's what's broken with our Congress right now is that we've gotten into our partisan camps and we've got to stop that. You know, like I go back all the time to serving in the military.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
But, you know, it is in my blood that public services been what I'm all about. And whether I don't care what uniform you wear, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine or Coast Guard, I don't care if you're male or female. I don't care what ethnic background you are. I don't care your political background. I don't care what your religious background is. At the end of the day, we have one mission, and that is to protect and defend this country. And so we have to work together. And let me tell you something, if the person behind me isn't doing their job. I'm not coming home alive. They're not coming home alive. And America is in danger. And so we have got to work together.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
And I I've developed that work ethic. And, you know, I was on the phone the other night with Congressman Michael Waltz, a Green Beret from Florida. And we were we were having a Zoom town hall meeting here in New Hampshire. And we were talking about that very issue about how more people in the military really need to serve. You know, we haven't had a military, a Congress that has a lot of veterans in it. And and we could see that decline and that partisanship happened, start happening when fewer and fewer veterans were in Congress. And so bringing that military ethos with us was this ability to work across the aisle and the ability to work to people with people to keep America first is is something that has been lost since Congress. But I can assure you that I'm going to bring that value with me and I will work very hard to put America in the Granite State first.

Peter Biello:
So just to clarify, was there an issue that that Democrats champion that you would perhaps break with your party to also champion with them?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Well, I think that there's a lot of issues. I mean, look at the Problem Solvers caucus. Are you familiar with them at all?

Peter Biello:
Slightly, yes.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
OK, well, there's the Problem Solvers caucus, and I believe it's up to about fifty six members. And it's, you know, it's equal. It's the same number of Democrats as there are Republicans.

Peter Biello:
This is caucus you'd be interested in joining?

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Representative Tom Reed from New York and Dan Muser from Pennsylvania are very supportive of my candidacy. And, you know, and they they feel very strongly about the Problem Solvers caucus. And I think it's a great first start to get people working together. And right now it's fifty six members of a of four hundred and thirty five. But that's going to continue to grow. And if you look, there are just so many pieces of legislation that they have worked on together. But I'm going to be honest with you, working together doesn't make the news. There are lots of pieces of legislation that they have passed in a bipartisan manner, but it doesn't make the news. You know, partisanship seems to be the story of the day. And so so maybe maybe we could get some help, too, from the media and we could highlight some of those good news stories and give America confidence that there will be a Congress that can work together.

Peter Biello:
Well, you found the root of my bipartisanship question, but we are out of time. Lynne Blankenbeker, thank you very much for joining us today. We really appreciate it.

Lynne Blankenbeker:
Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity. And thank you for the great questions out there. Everyone, I appreciate that.

This has been the Weekly New Hampshire News Roundup series of conversations with candidates.