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Kuster, Swett tackle wide range of issues


June 24, 2010
PLYMOUTH — Second District U.S. Congressional Democratic primary candidates Annie McLane Kuster and Katrina Swett spoke to a "standing room only" crowd at the Plymouth Regional Senior Center during a Conversation with the Candidates sponsored by the Plymouth Area Democrats (PAD) Tuesday night.

Local Democratic Chairman Robert Lamb served as moderator for a structured and substantive discussion. He introduced the candidates by saying that both women are "exceptional" candidates and that he was certain either one would ably represent the Democrats in the November general election against whoever is chosen as the Republican nominee in September. In a show of solidarity, underscoring the enthusiasm for both candidates, many local Democratic Party members donned both Kuster and Swett campaign buttons for the occasion.

In her opening remarks Katrina Swett echoed the sentiment, saying that both candidates are excited to see such interest, enthusiasm and commitment in the Plymouth area. Both candidates agreed that the economy and creating jobs for New Hampshire working families were amongst the highest priorities for their campaigns.

After brief opening statements, the candidates answered a series of penetrating questions posed by local party members on a spectrum of international, state and local issues ranging from the war in Afghanistan to the price of milk.

While the candidates rather closely agreed on many topics and policies, one area of difference emerged early in the evening as the candidates addressed the question of administration policy in Afghanistan.

While describing herself as "very loyal" to President Obama in general, Ann McLane Kuster said that she had disagreed with the policy of increasing troops in Afghanistan as part of a "failed mindset" towards the conflict. "I don't believe this is the best way to protect U.S. citizens," said Kuster. "I am convinced that we need to focus on better coordinating our intelligence capabilities against Al-Qaeda rather than building up our troop presence. We need to develop a more nimble approach and not get bogged down in large, long-term military endeavors."

Swett said that she had supported a temporary troop surge policy as a way of stabilizing and strengthening Afghanistan and giving the Karzai government a chance to succeed. She emphasized the geopolitical importance of the conflict due to its proximity to a nuclear armed Pakistan. "It would be unthinkable for the Pakistan nuclear arsenal to fall into the hands of terrorists," said Swett.

Both candidates spoke passionately about the need both to help private industry and the market create new jobs, particularly in the clean alternative energy sector. They said the stimulus package was an absolute necessity in the short term to stabilize the U.S. economy, but that it was imperative to tackle the deficit reduction challenge in the long-term interests of future generations.

"This is the issue of the hour," said Kuster. " I think we have to remember that the United State was on the brink of economic collapse when President Obama came into office. Republicans got us into this mess and I think it is outrageous to hear them clamoring because it's taking the Democrats too long to get us out of it." She said that Democrats proved that they can solve the deficit problem during the Clinton administration, having delivered a healthy budget surplus to former President Bush when he came into office.

When the discussion turned to alternative energy policy and the environment, both candidates agreed on the need for comprehensive energy legislation to move the country forward in alternative energy technologies like solar, wind and biomass, particularly in the wake of the gulf oil disaster.

"If we are serious about breaking our addiction to fossil fuels, we need policies to level the playing field for emerging alternative energy technologies," said Swett. "I am supportive of the full range of green, renewable energy sources and I am convinced that New Hampshire can become an energy producing state if we embrace alternatives like wind and biomass."

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