CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The first debate between U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and Don Bolduc on Tuesday pitted the Democratic incumbent’s record against her Republican rival’s campaign trail rhetoric.
Bolduc accused Hassan of failing constituents by supporting the Biden administration’s economic and energy policies, while she used his own words against him to argue he has undermined democracy and endangered women.
“Senator Hassan has supported Joe Biden 100% of the time with every failed policy that has resulted in your choice between heating and eating, has diminished your ability to provide three meals a day, has closed small businesses, has hurt people across this Granite State and across America,” Bolduc said. “She would rather talk about what you’re not thinking about.”
By that he meant abortion, which Hassan has made a centerpiece of her campaign. While Bolduc now says he opposes a national abortion ban, she referred to his past statement that he would never oppose anti-abortion legislation (“I’m not going to vote contrary to pro-life”). And she took issue with his recent comments about who should have the authority to set abortion policy.
“It belongs to the state. It belongs to these gentlemen right here, who are state legislators representing you,” the retired Army general said at a town hall meeting earlier this month in Auburn.
“I do not agree with him that gentlemen, as he put it, in the New Hampshire Legislature should assume my rights or make decisions for me or any other woman,” said Hassan, a former governor seeking her second term in Washington. “I think government has no role here. Because I think every time government tries to regulate this, they end up making decisions that hurt women.”
In defending his comments, Bolduc accused Hassan of twisting his words and taking them out of context as he believes she has done on Social Security and other topics. But he also muddled things further, saying “All there were was men in the room, these gentlemen. There were no women.”
In fact, while there were no female lawmakers at the event, there were several women.
George Epstein, who moderated the debate for the Mount Washington Economic Council, also pressed Bolduc on his shifting statements about the 2020 presidential election.
Bolduc claimed during his primary campaign that the White House race was stolen from former President Donald Trump. Then, after Bolduc won the Sept. 13 vote, he said it wasn’t. More recently, he has said he doesn’t have enough information for a conclusion.
“Do you believe that position weakens our country by creating problems with the electorate feeling confident in our elections?” Epstein asked.
Bolduc answered by saying the state needs to tighten rules about same-day voter registration and absentee voting to prevent fraud, and by accusing Hassan of wanting to do away with New Hampshire’s tradition of holding the first-in-the-nation presidential primaries.
But Hassan, who denied that claim, returned to his earlier statements about 2020 to argue he has undermined democracy.
“Let’s be very clear here: Don Bolduc is an election denier,” she said. “His refusal to accept election results means he doesn’t listen to you. This allows him to support an agenda that will raise your costs and eviscerate your rights, because at the end of the day, he doesn’t think he needs to listen, or isn’t accountable to you.”