By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONWAY – Congressional District 1 candidate Karoline Leavitt, a Republican, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas disagreed on approaches to just about every challenge and issue facing the nation when they squared off in a debate Thursday sponsored by the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council.
From the future of Social Security, abortion rights, the southern border crisis, aid to Ukraine, global warming to what their favorite pets are, the 25-year-old Leavitt – in her first-ever election attempt – and the veteran 42-year-old congressman outlined the stark differences in their campaigns and missions if elected to the next Congress.
Moderated by George Epstein and broadcast live on Facebook by Valley Vision, the one-hour debate was taped and can be viewed here https://www.facebook.com/valleyvision3
Leavitt is a New Hampshire native who as a youth worked summers at her family’s ice cream stand in Atkinson, attended private parochial high school in Massachusetts, and graduated from St. Anselm College with a focus on media.
She interned at WMUR-TV and then worked in the media office for Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., before going to work for former President Donald Trump as an assistant press secretary and “fought against the biased mainstream media,” according to her website. She has maintained a strong loyalty to the former president and espouses many of his values. She won the September primary for the Republican nomination.
In her opening remarks, she said she wants to go to Washington to fight inflation, protect the southern border from illegal immigration and drugs pouring in, and “make a more free state” for New Hampshire residents and businesses.
Pappas, a native of Manchester, graduated from public school and Harvard University where he worked for the paper The Harvard Crimson. Like Leavitt, his family operates a small business that began as an ice cream stand. He served three terms on the New Hampshire Executive Council, and two terms in the New Hampshire House, and has been the Congressman from District 1 since January 2019.
He said he has worked on a bipartisan basis in Washington to solve problems noting he has not supported the Biden Administration at every step.
He said Leavitt’s “extreme views” on everything from abortion to Social Security are out of step with New Hampshire and could be “dangerous for New Hampshire.”
Pappas said his efforts to push the Biden Administration to make more energy supplies available to help push the gas prices down which were at $5 a gallon in July and are now at about $3.50 a gallon.
“More needs to be done. We need to look out for America’s needs first. That is why I have called on the administration to restrict the exports of oil and gas,” he said. “Let’s take care of the needs of New England homeowners this winter and focus on what we can do to make energy more affordable…No one should be going without heat or making tough choices this winter,” Pappas said.
Leavitt said Pappas and his party “own this inflation crisis” by greenlighting $5.5 trillion in new spending over the past two years and “that is why we have record inflation this winter.”
Leavitt said her number one priority in Washington would be to bring down the cost of gas and groceries by taking the fiscally conservative values of New Hampshire to Washington and refusing new spending initiatives.
She said she would work for more energy independence by allowing for more domestic drilling and pipelines, something she said Pappas has opposed.
Leavitt said one area she would cut among the “socialist spending sprees” would be in foreign aid. She said $12 million for gender studies in Pakistan is not a New Hampshire priority.
“What the legislation we just approved does, which Karoline opposes,” Pappas said, “lowers the cost of prescription drugs for families that are struggling right now to afford their medication…It approves energy rebates and tax credits for homeowners to help lower their energy bills.”
And Pappas noted “we did it in a way that was fully paid for,” and would lower the deficit.
On Ukraine, Leavitt said while that nation was being attacked by a “thug,” Russian President Vladimir Putin, she did not feel it was necessary for the United States to send them more aid when the people of America are facing such a financial crisis at home. And she said the money committed has not all been spent yet.
Pappas said as a nation we need to support Ukraine because “other countries will be next” in
“They’ve pushed Russia back,” he said of the people of Ukraine and that it is our government’s obligation to help them win back their country and stop Russia’s invasion. He also said helping Ukraine is something that residents throughout the state strongly support.
TAXES AND SOCIAL SECURITY
Pappas said he does not support raising taxes on anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year and Leavitt said she would always vote to protect Social Security benefits.
These are contrary to some political advertising.
The two acknowledged that Social Security will become insolvent in 12 years and Leavitt said there are a “plethora of solutions I will certainly look into,” if elected.
Pappas charged that she has said she would privatize Social Security and that could jeopardize the popular program to the ups and downs of the stock market.
He said he would look to a bipartisan solution that would be sustainable while protecting investments made into the system.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down federal provisions protecting a woman’s right to choose an abortion, leaving it up to the states to decide what limits on the procedure are allowed is a major issue in this campaign.
Pappas has made reproductive choice a cornerstone of his re-election bid and has charged that his opponent, Leavitt would further look to limit abortion.
She said she favors the decision being made at the local level and supports New Hampshire’s laws on the subject, which recently changed to limit abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“I will not support a federal ban on abortion,” she said.
New Hampshire is overwhelmingly a pro-choice state, Pappas said, and that is why he said he would support a federal Women’s Health Protection Act, codifying Roe. v. Wade into federal law.
Leavitt said she believes we face environmental challenges but opposes federal taxes to fight global warming, saying efforts can be made at the “state and local level.” She said she would support more domestic energy production from fossil fuels.
Pappas noted that New Hampshire’s environment and economy are intertwined and that Leavitt has called climate change “BS.”
She said what she thinks is “BS” is the Democrat’s “war on the fossil fuel industry” and that is why it is costing more at the pumps.
Pappas said Leavitt is in the “pocket” of big oil.
SOUTHERN BORDER CRISIS
The Biden Administration’s policy at the border has led to a crisis where millions of illegal immigrants are entering the country adding to the nation’s drug crisis, both acknowledged.
Leavitt charged Pappas voted to reduce funding for law enforcement which he said was not true.
Pappas said he has called out the Biden Administration on its broken system there and is working with a “laser focus” on reducing the fentanyl drug problem which finds its way to New Hampshire streets.
PETS AND LOUNGEWEAR
The two even differed on favorite pets and loungewear.
Asked by Epstein about whether or not he is a cat or a dog person, Pappas said he has a cat and
Leavitt said she is a dog person though she likes cats too.
Epstein also asked about what each candidate likes to wear at home on rainy Sundays.
Pappas said he has a few hoodies he likes to wear and she said she has several pajama sets she enjoys wearing in quieter times when she is not on the campaign trail.
Leavitt asked voters if they feel they are better off than they were two years ago. She said inflation, the border crisis, and other issues would propel her to work hard in Washington if elected and “humbly” asked for voter support to allow a “new energetic era” of leadership in Washington.
Pappas said reproductive rights hang in the balance this election and so does the future of Social Security and Democracy.
He said the future of the nation has been challenged by “the big lie” that Trump won the election and it was stolen, asserting that Leavitt believes that, and the attack on the capital by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to block the peaceful transfer of power from Trump to Biden.
Pappas said he has been considered among the most bipartisan congressmen in Washington and would work across political aisles to find solutions if re-elected also asking for voter support.
The election is on Nov. 8.