NORTH CONWAY, N.H. (AP) — Republican Scott Brown immediately and repeatedly called U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen a rubber stamp for the Obama administration Monday, while she waited until the end of their first debate to cast him as an outsider who doesn’t understand New Hampshire.
Shaheen, a Democrat and former governor seeking a second Senate term, faces Brown, a former Massachusetts senator, on Nov. 4. He won a special election in 2010 to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, lost the seat in 2012, and moved to New Hampshire late last year.
As they have throughout the campaign, Shaheen focused her opening remarks to the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council on the connections she’s made with residents and businesses during her decades in New Hampshire, while Brown quickly reminded voters that she has voted with Obama 99 percent of the time.
In her closing statement, Shaheen described several bills she either sponsored or backed aimed at helping the state’s small businesses, including legislation to promote U.S. tourism destinations overseas. Tourism is New Hampshire’s second largest industry behind manufacturing and accounts for more than 60,000 jobs statewide.
“This is a bill that had no cost to taxpayers … yet Scott Brown voted against it, perhaps because he doesn’t understand the New Hampshire economy,” said Shaheen, who also highlighted Brown’s vote to continue oil industry subsidies.
“When he represented Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate, he supported big corporations,” she said. “He wasn’t there for our small businesses.”
Brown countered that he has been endorsed by several national business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“The only thing worse than voting with the president 99 percent of the time is actually having a zero rating with the National Federation of Independent Businesses,” he said. “It’s easy to talk about what you’re doing for small businesses, but I have their endorsement.”
The two also tangled over the issue of reproductive rights. Shaheen incorrectly said Brown voted to block funding for Planned Parenthood, and correctly pointed out that he co-sponsored an amendment that would have allowed employers to deny health care coverage for services they say violate their moral or religious beliefs, including birth control.
“You have to listen not just to what Scott Brown has to say about this issue with respect to pro-choice, you have to look at what he’s done,” she said. “This effort was not about religious freedom, it was about denying access to contraceptive coverage for women.”
Brown didn’t address that legislation in his answer, but said he did back funding for Planned Parenthood and co-sponsored the Violence Against Women Act.
“Because I remember fighting for women since I was five years old when my mom and myself were being abused by a drunk stepfather,” he said. “So when it comes to fighting for women’s rights, with all respect Senator, I was doing it since I was five years old.”
Attendance records also came up, with Brown criticizing Shaheen for missing numerous Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings, including one about the emerging threat by the Islamic State group last year. Shaheen took Brown to task for missing every hearing on border security even though he has made the issue one of the hallmarks of his campaign. Shaheen, who also countered Brown’s rubber-stamp charge by mentioning several bills she worked on with Republicans, noted that both she and Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte voted for a comprehensive border security and immigration reform bill that Brown opposes. Ayotte has endorsed Brown.
Brown said the bill was too lenient in its treatment of immigrants in the country illegally.
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