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1st district hopefuls meet for public radio debate

October 10, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Pushing back against both debate moderators and his opponent, Republican congressional hopeful Eddie Edwards said Wednesday that questions about race, reproductive rights and President Donald Trump’s behavior serve only to further divide Americans.

Edwards and Democrat Chris Pappas faced each other at New Hampshire Public Radio for their first of several debates ahead of the Nov. 6 election. They are competing to replace Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st congressional district, which has repeatedly swung back and forth between the two parties over the last decade.

Edwards was asked to contrast his emphasis on good character with Trump’s recent mocking of the woman who accused new U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. While Edwards said he doesn’t condone such behavior, he said it’s wrong to “vilify” the president when others act similarly.

“We look for ways to divide our country, so we point to the president’s language sometimes,” said Edwards, a former police chief and former chief enforcement officer for the state Liquor Commission. “To constantly go back and forth and try to demonize the president is wrong. I think it’s misguided because we see similar behavior across the board. ... The question is designed to draw conflict.”

Pappas, who serves on the governor’s Executive Council, called Trump’s mocking of Christine Blasey Ford shameful and said those coming forward with similar stories should be respected. He was asked by moderators how he would represent a district that voted for Trump in 2016, a point Edwards also pressed him on later, telling Pappas, “Your approach, being part of the resistance movement, is misguided.”

Pappas said his campaign is not a negative reaction to Trump but about “bringing people together around solutions.” He said he would not hesitate to stand up to the president, however.

“It’s important at this time in our history that we do have checks and balances, that we restore decency and integrity to Washington and that we have people who are going to look out for the best interest of their districts and not give the president a blank check.”

When Pappas asked him to explain his position opposing abortion even in the case of rape, Edwards called the question itself divisive because the matter wouldn’t come before Congress. And he said highlighting the fact that he would be the state’s first black member of Congress or that Pappas would be the first openly gay member does a disservice to all Americans.

“I’m not special because I’m black, Chris isn’t special because he’s gay, you’re not special because you’re a woman,” he told the female moderator. “We’re special because of what we give back to our communities, our nation and our families. ... We constantly try to divide us up into categories and believe we have to protect one group of Americans over another while demonizing one group over another, or promoting one group over another. I think it’s time we get back to respecting all Americans.”

Pappas said he sees value in telling his story as a nontraditional candidate to ensure that communities that feel marginalized are brought into mainstream society.

“If there’s a member of the LBGT community out there who’s questioning their place in our state, maybe this sends a really strong, positive message to them,” he said. “I’m excited to be a part of a newer generation stepping forward to run for Congress this year. ... I think it’s important that everyone has a seat at the table. At the end of the day, we’re going to see better policy that’s rooted in the communities of New Hampshire as a result.”

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