Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, and Don Bolduc, a Republican, sparred Thursday in the second debate in their New Hampshire Senate race, and the retired Army brigadier general was heavily criticized for his attacks on the issue.
The debate was particularly fierce, much more so than their first contest. Bolduc accused Hassan of “empowering” the drug cartels and said the Democrat’s votes “have fueled inflation and that’s the problem we have.” Hassan responded by accusing Bolduc of “singing the (big oil) song” and said the Republican’s views on abortion “could harm women and cost their lives in some cases.”
The New Hampshire race is crucial for both parties. Hassan entered the year as one of the most vulnerable Senate positions in the country, hampered by Washington’s antipathy toward Democratic control. But Bolduc, despite winning the primary in September, was not the first choice among key Republican operatives, some of whom worry that his far-right views have jeopardized his chances of unseating the New Hampshire Democrat.
The tightness of the race was clear during the debate, with both candidates having the opportunity to hammer their opponent with less than two weeks to go before Election Day.
At one point, Bolduc turned to a masked audience member who accused him of wanting to ban abortion.
“I don’t support, I don’t support a federal ban for or against abortion at the federal level. Now it’s a state issue,” Bolduc said, facing the audience. “I support the Hampshire law. I support the Granite Staters. It’s a lie.”
When asked if he would vote for a federal abortion law, he said, “No, no, no. And I told Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham.” Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, recently introduced a federal bill that would ban abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger.
Abortion has been central to Hassan’s argument against Bolduc.
“Don Bolduc and the anti-choice Republicans are taking away your personal liberties,” said the narrator of Hassan’s first general election ad.
Bolduc specifically complained about those ads, saying, “I know what these ads do. I know what these lies do. Lies about Social Security, lies about everything.”
Hassan did not back down from the attacks, though.
“It’s about women’s basic freedom, health and safety and Don Bolduc has a very long history of extremism here,” Hassan said. “The problem with politicians like Don Bolduc drawing arbitrary lines when it comes to these decisions is that, in fact, they can harm women and in some cases cost them their lives.”
Votes and election denials have also dominated the broader Senate race and been a point of contention.
When Bolduc was asked about voting in New Hampshire, he raised the possibility of “school buses full of people” who are not allowed to go to the polls in New Hampshire and the possibility that thousands of people would vote without identification and not return for their verification. the identity
Someone in the audience laughed when Bolduc said this, and the candidate said, “You can laugh about it, but the people of New Hampshire don’t laugh about it.”
“That’s what I’m saying Granite States is telling me,” Bolduc said. “And I’m saying we need to respond to that.”
As for his claim about bussing people and whether he needed to verify that claim, Bolduc said, “I think we need to verify that. That’s what I just said. Can you hear me here for a second?” But he later added, “I think it’s worth it.”
Bolduc focused his first campaign on denying the results of the 2020 election.
“I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying Trump won the election, and damn, I’m fine [it]” Bolduc said during a debate in mid-August. But shortly after the primary, Bolduc tried to walk back those comments, saying he had “done a lot of research on this … and I’ve come to the conclusion — and I want to be definitive about it — that the election was not steal it.”
But since that comeback, Bolduc has struggled to deny outright that the 2020 election was rigged, including raising the possibility of the 2022 election being unfairly rigged.
Hassan used the exchange to highlight this back and forth.
“What you just heard from Don Bolduc is a continuing attempt to spin the big lie, he has been traveling this state for over a year now, spinning the big lie that 2020 was stolen,” Hassan said.
He added: “Here’s the thing about election denial: it’s working, and working, to hide how extreme it is… Here’s the reason it’s important to have free and fair elections, because that’s the way the people of Berri have it. Hampshire, hold us to account. Don Bolduc can ignore where most Granite Staters stand … because he thinks he doesn’t have to accept the election results.”
Later in the debate, Bolduc accused Hassan of being a “2016 election denier.”
At one point, the two candidates were visibly annoyed with each other.
After Bolduc said he “never said” he wanted to end Social Security, Hassan directed his campaign audience to a website highlighting Bolduc’s various positions, pointing out that there were videos of Bolduc taking certain positions.
“That’s been tampered with,” Bolduc interjected.
“Oh my,” Hassan sighed.