Kuster, Garcia Spar In Debate As NH's Congressional Race Becomes A Toss-up

Posted: Oct 22, 2014 12:15 PM

In the beginning of Monday night’s debate, New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster said, “We have a historic opportunity tonight. This is the first time two women have faced off for a race at the top of the ticket and I think we can–we have a chance to really make this a very respectful session tonight.”

She may have spoke too soon. Kuster was more than a little rude when she interrupted her Republican opponent­, New Hampshire State Rep. Marilinda Garcia, on multiple occasions.

Issues from jobs, the economy, minimum wage, Ebola, ISIS, and health care were discussed, including a chance to view each other’s campaign ads and discuss their veracity.

Things got testy over abortion, where Kuster interrupted Garcia during her rebuttal. On health care, while Garcia pushed reform to reduce costs, Kuster touted her Republican roots (she was raised Republican), saying that Obamacare is consumer driven, it generates competition, and it will bring down costs as a result.

Later on, Kuster tried to tie Garcia to the Koch Brothers, where Garcia noted that her staff had looked through the campaign finance reports to find that the Kochs have only accounted for 1.5 percent of all contributions; an amount that does not necessarily justify a “Garcia is the Koch puppet” narrative. Kuster also criticized Garcia for being paid by her campaign. Again, it’s a move that’s legal.

Garcia hit back saying she decided to give herself a salary since she doesn’t have, like Kuster, a net worth of $2 million.

Why is it legal for candidates to pay themselves?

“Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law candidates for federal office are allowed to pay themselves, with the theory that this allows regular people to run for office, not just the rich who can afford to take a year off to campaign,” according to WMUR. Garcia just started paying herself to campaign full-time.

Like Thom Tillis in North Carolina, Garcia tied Kuster to President Obama. Kuster noted that Obama isn’t on the ballot this year; a talking point that would have more of a punch if Obama didn’t spoil it for Democrats at Northwestern University.

Things got a bit condescending when the two women debated the minimum wage increase. Garcia, who has been touring the second congressional district’s small businesses, said that owners have told her the same thing: if you increase the minimum wage, I need to start cutting jobs.

Kuster basically said that if Garcia had more life experience, she would understand the importance of raising the minimum wage.

There were three big misconceptions Kuster peddled during the debate; one was that Garcia plans to gut the Department of Education, where she even told Kuster to her face that she never said such words. The second was that Garcia supports ground troops for fighting ISIS. Again, not true–by this time the Garcia campaign was venting over these incredulous claims on Twitter.

The third one is actually more of a lie; Kuster claimed to have hosted town hall events and roundtables with “seniors, students, and veterans.” She also called the accusations that she hasn't engaged in constituent relations a “red herring.”

Yet, the truth is that she hasn’t held a town hall event. She recently began a "30 diners in 30 days" tour, but those are not really town halls, nor are they advertised as such in her fundraising emails. Kuster’s event schedule is not published on her campaign website.

 Garcia has even invited Kuster to join her town hall events. Kuster declined. In reality, Rep. Kuster has yet to hold an official town hall event with her constituents since her 2012 win.  

Kuster’s aggression in the debate could also be due to the fact that Real Clear Politics has moved New Hampshire’s Second Congressional district from leans Democratic to a toss-up.