Accusations turn dramatic in NH's 2nd CD
MANCHESTER, N.H.—Republican Jennifer Horn suggested Tuesday that Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes would dismantle democracy, while he accused her of belittling a grieving mother.
Questioning Hodes directly during a televised debate, Horn noted his support for a bill that would allow workers to form a union when a majority in the workplace sign union cards, without a secret-ballot vote that companies now can demand. Many employers oppose the bill because they say workers who don't want a union could be intimidated into signing up for one without the cover of a secret ballot.
"Since the secret ballot is one of the building blocks of our democracy, what I'm wondering is what other building blocks of our democracy are you willing to sell for half a million dollars in special interest money?" said Horn, who tried to slip in the last word during many of their exchanges.
Hodes, who is seeking a second term, clarified that the bill would make bypassing a secret ballot an option, not a requirement. When it was his turn to ask a question, he challenged Horn's claim that he has done nothing in Congress by describing a health insurance law he sponsored on behalf of AnnMarie Morse, whose daughter, Michelle, died of colon cancer in 2005. The law allows college students to take up to a year off school for medical reasons and remain on their family's health insurance.
"Are you willing to face AnnMarie Morse, look her in the eye and tell her that Michelle's law is nothing?"
Though she offered a quick "Michelle's Law is a good law," when prompted by the moderator, Horn answered by returning to her central argument.
"Mr. Hodes has spent two years in Congress and a lot of time during this election talking about all the things he's done: 'I did this. I did that. The things I couldn't do was this person's fault,'" she said. "But look at where we are today. We are facing an economic crisis that was under the responsibility of the committee he sits on, and he did nothing."
Hodes countered that the Bush administration set the stage for the crisis with its push toward deregulation well before he arrived in Washington and that the regulators it did appoint downplayed the potential for problems.
"If I had the power that she says I have, why wouldn't I use it to simply levitate the stock markets?" he asked.
Though she brought up Hodes' record time after time, when Hodes pointed out Republican failures, Horn was quick to argue that the race shouldn't be about the past.
"This election is about the future. It's about solving the problems we face today, crafting real solutions that are going to help everyone across the spectrum," she said. "Mr. Hodes would rather stay mired in the past and continue to wallow in bitter partisan past problems."
On the biggest problem facing the country -- the economy-- Horn pushed for a broad approach of lower taxes across the board, saying taxpayers allowed to keep more of their own money would stimulate the economy with their spending.
Both she and Hodes opposed the recent financial industry rescue plan, but for different reasons. Horn said she opposes government buying private industries, while Hodes said the plan failed to offer enough oversight or taxpayer protections.
The two differed on a potential bailout of the auto industry, which is talking to the Bush administration about funding on a much broader scale than the programs approved by Congress as part of the larger rescue bill.
Horn said she opposes an auto industry bailout for the same reason she opposed the financial industry plan, but Hodes said he would favor a plan that provides "more of a loan than a bailout."
"On the one hand, the auto industry has had its head in the sand for a long time," when it comes to fuel efficient cars, Hodes said. "On the other hand, it's important that we help to stabilize those core industries that employ so many people."
Recent polls show Hodes leading Horn by a margin of about 2-1 though about a quarter of voters say they haven't yet made up their minds.
The debate was sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader and WMUR-TV.