By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
PORTSMOUTH – Health care is turning into the major issue for the First Congressional District seat as the campaign hits the home stretch.
In Portsmouth’s Prescott Park on Tuesday, supporters of U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, claimed Republican opponent Matt Mowers repeatedly rejected bipartisan calls to come clean about his work with pharmaceutical companies.
They stated he poses a threat to Granite Staters’ health care. Efforts to reach the Mowers campaign on this issue were unsuccessful.
On the Mowers Facebook page, he claims that Pappas did not disclose a personal relationship with a corporate lobbyist for Amazon and supported a vote that doubled the number of foreign workers, benefitting that company.
The Pappas campaign called that claim false and noted there is no requirement for members of Congress to report who they are dating. The campaign also said the person is no longer a corporate lobbyist.
State Senate candidate Rebecca Perkins Kwoka and other Pappas supporters held the press conference this week to outline their concerns about what state residents would face for health-care options if Mowers is elected.
The Pappas campaign claims Mowers supported repealing the Affordable Care Act with no plan to replace it.
“One of the reasons why the Affordable Care Act is so important is because it’s helped reduce inequities in health care in regards to high prescription drug costs and on a larger scale,” said Kwoka.
“When my wife and I were going through the process of having a baby through in vitro fertilization, we ended up having to pay extra costs that most straight couples wouldn’t encounter. I also had a friend who, because of a miscarriage, had to have an emergency procedure in order to save her health, and she got billed $10,000 because the insurance company categorized it as an abortion. This just goes to show how women and LGBTQ+ individuals end up having to pay more for the same health care. We need to re-elect Chris to Congress in order to protect the ACA so that everyone has access to quality, affordable health care.”
Portsmouth Police Commissioner Stefany Shaheen said Matt Mowers is “a political opportunist, and nothing makes this clearer than his attempts to hide his consulting clients from the people of New Hampshire. He filed an illegible financial disclosure, and despite being given repeated opportunities to come clean about his clients, Matt Mowers has refused to tell us who he works for.”
“When my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes, my family was suddenly faced with paying for staggeringly-expensive medications and treatments. Given Matt Mowers’ close ties to Big Pharma, it’s no wonder that he’s backed tax cuts for them and would repeal the Affordable Care Act instead of fighting for our health care…”
Mowers said in a press release Wednesday that it is a winnable race for Republicans “especially now that Congressman Pappas is engulfed in a widening scandal about his lobbyist connections and subsequent lies to cover it up. The district went for President Trump last time in 2016, and is one of the nation’s true swing districts.”
The release said Mowers has broken Republican records for fundraising every quarter of the race and has outraised Pappas for two straight reporting periods.
He has recently been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business and the New England Police Association, following the endorsements of two Manchester police unions that previously endorsed Pappas. Mowers has the endorsements of Gov. Chris Sununu and President Donald J. Trump.
Libertarian candidate Zachary Dumont said on his Facebook page “If you’re interested in the Live Free or Die state being represented by someone who takes that slogan to heart, Zachary Dumont is your choice for Congress in District 1.
Zachary is a town councilman in Newmarket. “He has direct experience making decisions that change lives, and his constituents are better for it: he saves taxpayers money, and he fought against a frivolous mask mandate. The Republicans have offered a Trump stooge; the Democrats offered a Pelosi stooge. By contrast, Zachary is an independent thinker who will vote in the best interest of the Granite State, not along the lines he’s fed by any party bosses.”
District 1, Candidates’ Backgrounds
District 1 is located on the eastern side of the state and has both Manchester and Portsmouth as large voting centers.
The seat is currently held by Pappas, 40, of Manchester, a former Executive Councilor who won the seat two years ago after Democrat Carol Shea-Porter decided not to seek another term. He is seeking a second term.
Pappas is being challenged for the seat by Mowers, 44, of Bedford, who is seeking his first elective office after working for the Trump Administration. He was a former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party and now is the principal of a New York City consulting firm.
He defeated Matt Mayberry 59 percent to 26 percent and others, in the primary.
Mowers claims that Pappas is beholden to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and, with her, is “holding hostage” more COVID-19 relief funding until after the election. At a rally for President Donald Trump on Sunday in Londonderry, Mowers told supporters that Pappas has been “lying to us for two years.”
Mowers claims he would be an independent voice in Washington for New Hampshire but Pappas charges that Mowers is more interested in supporting the agenda of the Trump Administration than the needs of struggling New Hampshire families, whom he represents.
Mowers claims that Pappas votes more with Pelosi all the time and often against the interests of New Hampshire. On Sunday he pointed to a bill that he said would increase payroll taxes by 20 percent.
The former State Department staffer who worked on Trump’s transition team said he supports money for building a wall between the United States and Mexico as a way to keep out illegal drugs. He is pro-life, opposes abortion, and supports the Second Amendment.
The married, long-time New Jersey resident said he supports environmental policies that do not hurt businesses and said he would hold China accountable for greenhouse gas emissions. Mowers also said he wants to hold colleges accountable for “runaway spending” and supports alternative higher education.
According to his website, “https://mattmowers.com/ Mowers wants to be among a “new generation” of conservative leaders who will work with the president to lower drug prices, work on new trade deals and help veterans.
Pappas has worked on issues of veterans’ services and has served on that committee in Congress along with transportation and infrastructure. He began his interest in politics working for Jeanne Shaheen’s bid for governor. He was a high school student at Manchester High School Central and graduated in 1998 and then went on to Harvard University graduating in 2002 with a degree in government.
Pappas’ family came to Manchester several generations ago from Greece and he is now co-owner of the family’s Puritan Backroom restaurant in Manchester. He is the first openly gay person to serve New Hampshire in Congress and is single.
The Democrat served two terms in the state House of Representatives before becoming Hillsborough County Treasurer then lost his only election in re-election to the treasurer’s seat to Robert Burns.
In 2012 he defeated Burns for election to the Executive Council and ran successfully for two more terms until successfully running for Congress.
He beat the Republican nominee, Eddie Edwards of Dover, in 2018 for his current seat 53.6 percent to 45 percent.
Some of the positions Pappas is best known for include championing substance abuse treatment which has hit his home city hard, particularly with the opioid epidemic of the past few years.
He has been an outspoken critic of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and his treatment of minorities, including the LGBTQ community. On the issues at his campaign website, https://www.chrispappas.org/ Pappas has been an advocate for veterans.
Top on the list of issues are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering quality affordable health care, retaining the Affordable Care Act and working to thwart rollbacks attempted by the Trump Administration, reduce drug costs and make sure that those with pre-existing conditions do not pay more for their health care coverage.
A pro-choice candidate, Pappas said he would stand up for reproductive rights and health care and supports a family medical leave act. He also opposes efforts to privatize Social Security.
He wants to reinstate the ban on the sale of assault weapons and supports universal gun background checks.
Pappas is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act that prohibits discrimination for the LGBTQ+ community and advocates legislation in the Opioid Workforce Act and supports access to non-opioid pain management and Medicaid expansion, which he contends has been one of the most effective tools in addressing the opioid crisis.