CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Five of New Hampshire’s Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls are suggesting they don’t support enacting federal legislation restricting abortion, though most of them initially sidestepped the question during their first debate.
Donald Bolduc, Bruce Fenton, Vikram Mansharamani, Chuck Morse and Kevin Smith were asked Monday night to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court decision ending constitutional protection for abortion and whether they would support federal laws restricting it.
While all praised the decision, Fenton, a bitcoin businessman, was the only candidate who clearly said he would oppose federal abortion legislation. The others indicated their opposition only by not raising their hands when a moderator pressed them to take a position.
Bolduc, a retired Army general, called the court decision a necessary correction but otherwise offered no details of his views on abortion.
“This is what we need to do: Move forward, not backwards, under responsible, effective leadership,” he said.
The debate sponsored by New Hampshire Journal featured five of the 11 men seeking the Republican nomination in the Sept. 13 primary. The winner will take on U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat seeking her second term. She argues that several of the GOP candidates have records and positions consistent with backing a nationwide abortion ban.
“My opponents have made themselves very, very clear: if elected, they would work to eviscerate a woman’s fundamental rights. In the world’s greatest democracy, they would make women second class citizens,” she told reporters earlier Monday.
As state Senate president, Morse helped insert a provision into the current state budget prohibiting abortion after 24 weeks' gestation and has opposed efforts to add exceptions for rape, incest and fatal fetal anomalies. And Smith, the former director of a conservative advocacy group, told Nashua Republicans earlier this month that would back any federal legislation “to protect life,” according to video shared by the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
Smith more recently served as town manager of Londonderry, a position that drew scorn from Bolduc, who called Smith “clueless” when it comes to the war in Ukraine.
“He has no idea what he’s talking about. The town manager in Londonderry knows nothing about national security and strategy,” he said. “I do. I lived it.”
Smith highlighted his work as town manager when the candidates were asked whether they support the bipartisan bill signed by President Joe Biden on Saturday that aims to address gun violence.
“I’m the only person on this stage that’s actually done something,” said Smith, who described his town’s work to improve school security.
Smith, Bolduc and Fenton all said they oppose the bill, which will incrementally toughen requirements for young people to buy guns, deny firearms from more domestic abusers and help local authorities temporarily take weapons away from people judged to be dangerous. Neither Mansharamani nor Morse answered the question, which prompted an angry response from Fenton targeting Morse.
“You know what you are? You’re a rubber stamp,” he said. “You won’t answer the question because you’re afraid, because you’re a dealmaker. And you’re what we needed many years ago and you might have done a good job, but you’re not what we need right now. Not in these times. Not in this America.”
Morse declined to respond.