BELMONT — Amid the clamor of the Republican presidential primary campaign, the Belknap County Republican Committee heard from the first candidate to enter the race for the 1st Congressional District when Dan Innis of Portsmouth addressed the monthly meeting at the Top of the Town this week.
Innis, an academic and businessman, is one of a trio of likely candidates circling the incumbent, Republican Frank Guinta of Manchester, weakened by his sleight of hand with campaign funds in 2010 that prompted a number of leading Republicans to call for his resignation. But Guinta has shown no sign of shrinking from the defense of his seat. In October, Rep. Pam Tucker of Greenland, who served as Deputy Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives under the leadership of Bill O'Brien, formed an exploratory committee for a congressional bid. And Rich Ashook, once a lobbyist for BAE Systems of Nashua and now interim director of the Warren B. Rudman Center at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, who ran third when Guinta won the seat in 2010, is expected to join the field.
Innis is making his second bid for the seat. In 2014, as one of three openly gay Republican congressional candidates, he ran Guinta a close second, losing the primary by less than 5,000 votes.
"I'm not a career politician," Innis said, stressing that his background and perspective as a business teacher and business owner marked his candidacy.
A native of Ohio, Innis earned business degrees at Ohio University, Miami University in Ohio and Ohio State University, then joined the faculty at Ohio University. He became dean of the College of Business, Public Policy and Health at the University of Maine and in 2007 came to the University of New Hampshire, serving as Dean of the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics until 2013. With his husband Douglas Palardy, opened the The Ale House Inn in 2008 and the Hotel Portsmouth in 2014, both of which were later sold to Lark Hotels.
Asked what role he expected to play as newcomer to politics and a freshman in Congress, Innis pointed to the career of John Kasich of Ohio, who as a representative from Ohio entered the House of Representatives as something of a maverick, but served six of his nine terms as chairman of the Budget Committee.
Innis began with the issue of ISIS, declaring flatly "I would wipe them off the face of the earth," but then added that the United States must work with its allies in Europe and the Middle East to develop a successful strategy to eliminate the threat.
Turning to fiscal and economic policy, Innis advocated a balanced budget amendment, which he said was required to bring the $19 trillion national debt under control. Excessive debt, he warned, poses the greatest threat to the economy. Describing Obamacare as "a complete and utter failure," he called for repealing and replacing it. He favors lowering the corporate tax rate, which he said is not competitive, in order encourage firms to operate and invest at home rather than abroad as well as simplifying the tax code and moving toward a flat tax. His lone reference to climate change was to the "terrible" business climate, fouled by taxes and regulation.
On immigration, perhaps the most controversial issue of the campaign season, Innis toed a hard line. He opposes resettling any refugees without a "100 percent guarantee" that they pose no threat to public safety, which he said "can't be done now." He underlined the urgency of securing the southern border, not only to keep out potential terrorists but also to curb drug trafficking. He rejected so-called "serial amnesty" or any "path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants resident in the country, and suggested birthright citizenship" of so-called "anchor babies, or children born in the United States to mothers who are not citizens, should be rescinded.
Innis has begun his campaign with an outstanding debt of more than $100,000 for his earlier bid and will likely find himself the most centrist, or least conservative, of the four apparent candidates. He said that he had learned from first bid, when he remarked "I had a consultant in the back of my head," that "I can be myself and I can win this."
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