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Joyce Endee

Forum held at the Opera House

Republican Congressional candidates speak in Wakefield

July 01, 2010
WAKEFIELD – Five republican candidates vying to become the next Congressman from New Hampshire's First Congressional District seem to be of one mind when it comes to undoing President Barack Obama's healthcare legislation and reducing federal spending. However, one candidate differentiated himself when it came to cutting taxes.

Five of the eight candidates, hoping to win September's Republican primary and go on to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in November, shared their views on a variety of subjects in a forum sponsored by the Wakefield-Brookfield-Effingham Republican Committee on Friday, June 25 at Wakefield Opera House. Former U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley, and a current State Senator, served as moderator. Candidates appearing at the forum were: Sean Mahoney, Bob Bestani, Rich Ashooh, Frank Guinta and Rick Parent.

Bestani, of Newmarket, said it would be "misleading in the extreme" to simply promise tax cuts without reducing the size of the federal government and its appetite spending because the total U.S. budget deficit is getting out of control. Cutting revenue without decreasing spending would downgrade the country's AAA credit rating, raise interest rates, discourage foreign entities from lending money, and the collapse the dollar. Bestani would accomplish spending cuts by doing things such as reforming entitlements and scaling back military involvement in the Middle East.

"There is no one more committed to lowering taxes, but we have to start with cutting the size of the government and spending," said Bestani. "To say to the American people 'elect me and I'll cut taxes across the board' I think is wrong, it's dangerous, and I think it's pandering."

Bestani said he's got the ability to get the country out of its economic morass because his experience includes serving in the U.S. Treasury Department under President George H.W. Bush and, until May of 2008, as the Director General of Private Sector Finance at the Asian Development Bank, that's mission is to alleviate poverty in Asia.

"This isn't the time for on the job training or amateurism," said Bestani.

Other candidates said they'd reduce the size of government, but they were more focused on the virtues of cutting taxes. Generally, they promised to deliver economic growth.

Mahoney argued that Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush all lowered taxes and that spurred economic growth each time. Cutting taxes puts more money into the economy, said Mahoney who runs Millyard Communications, the entity that publishes New Hampshire Business Magazine. Mahoney stressed that he would cut spending and opposed the federal government's various bailout schemes.

"The government shouldn't be picking winners and losers in our economy," said Mahoney.

Former Manchester Mayor, Frank Guinta, said when he fought to give the city a tax cut, the results seemed to be positive. Guinta called for a national spending cap, similar to the one he advocated for in Manchester. Guinta's prescription for healing the government's budget woes is to "freeze, cap, and cut" spending.

"The city didn't fall into the Merrimack River and the people seemed happy," said Guinta of tax cuts in Manchester.

Guinta said his proposals include dismantling bureaucracies such as the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Education.

"I believe in local control," said Guinta. "Let's keep the money here."

Ashooh said he promises to keep taxes low. Businesses aren't hiring because they expect taxes to rise. When more of their money goes to taxes, there's less left to hire more employees. Until recently Ashooh, of Bedford, was a senior executive for BAE Systems, a Nashua based aerospace company. Ashooh, the father of five children, said his goal is to make sure the county will be left a better place for the next generation.

"We're not in this situation because we're taxed too little, it's because we're taxed too much," said Ashooh, who would cut spending to pre-bailout levels.

Ashooh said he's already worked in Washington D.C. In his younger years, he served as an aide to U.S. Senators Warren Rudman and Gordon Humphrey.

Parent, a Wolfeboro resident who works as an engineer, said he doesn't mind paying a fair share of taxes, but feels the government should spend more wisely. If the government has left over money for a particular project, it should send the money back rather than finding something else to spend it on. Parent wants to cut spending by focusing on "fridge programs," which he seemed to describe as welfare, foreign aid, and affirmative action.

"I live within my means," said Parent. "No one is entitled to anything unless they work for it."

Later in the evening, Parent seemed to struggle with a question about whether or not he believed the Glass-Steagall Act should be reinstated. The Depression era law separated commercial banks from investment firms. The recent financial meltdown is widely blamed on its repeal in 1999 under then-President Bill Clinton. The media often compares the latest finance reform bill to Glass-Steagall.

Parent said a friend who is "staunch Democrat" presented him with information about Glass-Steagall, but it was "too long" for him to read.

"I don't know too much about it, but I wouldn't reinstate it," he said.

Ashooh said he wouldn't bring Glass-Steagall back, but said the country needs to reexamine its principles when it comes to finance. Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were actually more to blame for the financial crisis, he said.

Mahoney said he wouldn't reinstate Glass-Steagall either — adding that the root cause of the meltdown was actually a law passed in during the 1970s that he said forced banks to make risky loans.

Bestani said reinstating Glass-Steagall would be impossible at this point because the financial industry is too melded together.

Parent took other unconventional stances as well. He suggested doing away with population-based representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Instead, he mused, that each state should just get two Congressmen and two Senators. Parent also suggested that Congressmen don't need multiple offices – just one in their hometown. Congressmen usually have an office in Washington D.C. and several within their district.

All the candidates pledged to be more responsive to their constituents than Shea-Porter. Guinta gave out his personal cell phone number and Ashooh pledged that he would hold regular office hours where people would be able to speak with him in person.

The candidates had varying answers when asked whether they approved of the government's use of fiscal stimulus to ward off the effects of the credit crunch.

Guinta replied that it didn't make sense for the government to borrow and spend its way out of the recession. This was the time for belt tightening, he said.

Banks aren't lending because the business climate is so fraught with uncertainty, said several candidates. Bestani said U.S. citizens should look at the social unrest in Greece to understand what could happen here if the uncertainty persists.

Mahoney and Ashooh both said that credit is the key to bringing back the economy.

None of the candidates liked Obama's healthcare reforms. The candidates said the reform is too expensive and interjected the government too far into the private sector. The candidates said they would like to repeal "Obama care" but realized that might not be possible, so they all pledged to at least de-fund it.

Mahoney said that he didn't think it was constitutional for the government to force people to buy insurance from private corporations. Mahoney referenced the U.S. Constitution repeatedly throughout the evening – many times while waiving a pocket-sized edition with his hand. Instead of passing the current healthcare bill, Mahoney said healthcare reform should have focused other means such as tort reform and allowing insurance purchases across state lines.

All the candidates also seemed to have similar positions on the state of Arizona's controversial immigration law. They seemed to agree that Arizona had to act because the federal government wasn't handling the problem.

Republican candidates that didn't attend the forum are: Peter J. Bearse, Andrew P. Kohlhofer, and Kevin Rondeau.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
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