LACONIA — At a campaign forum Thursday, there was plenty of general agreement among 10 Democratic congressional candidates, but they also criticized one another over campaign donations, length of residency in the state and approaches to health care.
Even state Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley got into a heated exchange.
Levi Sanders, one of those running to succeed Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, spoke of the need for Medicare for all.
“Right now we have 74 percent of Democrats who support the Medicare for all, single-payer health care,” said Sanders, whose father, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont backs such a plan. “It is supported by 122 members in the House, 18 in the Senate, and yet we have folks here who do not believe in Medicare for all, single-payer healthcare. That includes Chris Pappas.”
For his part, Pappas said he wants to “stop the assault on the Affordable Care Act and look for ways to make health care universal.”
There was general agreement about the need to step up gun control, but a note of discord surfaced on who could best speak to the issue.
Pappas said perverse interpretations of the Second Amendment are being used to oppose the public’s general desire “to keep communities safe and keep weapons of war off the streets.
“Ninety-five percent of people support universal background checks. There isn’t another issue where I can see that type of consensus across the spectrum. So we need to pass universal background checks. We need to pass a waiting period and a red-flag law. We need to reinstate the assault weapons ban.”
Maura Sullivan, who served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps and moved to New Hampshire last summer, said veterans in Congress are in the best position to lead gun control efforts.
“We have an unassailable credibility when it comes to these types of weapons,” she said. “I’ve fired automatic weapons many, many times. Part of my job in the Marine Corps was overseeing the safe storage of weapons. I know them inside and out and I can stand on the floor of the United States House of Representatives with other veterans and say, ‘These don’t belong in Laconia, they don’t belong in Manchester and they don’t belong anywhere else in our country.'”
Deaglan McEachern used the issue as an opening to criticize Sullivan’s short tenure in the state.
“So Maura just implied that Chris might not know as much about guns because he wasn’t serving in war,” he said. “By that same token, she might not know as much about New Hampshire because you haven’t lived here very long.”
Sullivan, who has received more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions to lead all candidates in the 1st Congressional District race, drew criticism from Sanders over her fundraising.
Sanders said debates are needed to discuss this and other issues.
“I’d like to have a give and take. We could have serious substantive discussions as to why Maura Sullivan believes in corporations, why she takes money from corporations,” he said.
State Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, the moderator, told him his time had elapsed and when Sanders continued to talk, Buckley asked that his microphone be turned off.
“This is what we’re dealing with,” Sanders said.
Buckley responded, “No, this is what we’re dealing with. The candidate cannot understand rules, can’t understand agreements, can’t act in a polite society.
“You want to get press attention.”
Sanders then told him, “You’re the head of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. You need to show decorum.”
Before he was cut off by jeers from the crowd, Sanders told Buckley, “Just because you make $175,000 a year...”
Expenses listed for the state Democratic Party on the Federal Election Commission website shows that Buckley is paid $3,279 every two weeks, or about $85,000 per year.