By JOHN DiSTASO, News Editor
CONCORD — Back in 1993, Jim Rubens called himself a “radical centrist” as he tried to build an arm of the independent New Majority Party in New Hampshire.
He even received advice at that time from Democrats Debora “Arnie” Arnesen, and John Rauh, who had been the Democratic Party nominees for governor and the U.S. Senate the previous year.
Now, 21 years later, Jim Rubens, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate on Thursday picked up the endorsement of the staunchly conservative Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire and its national counterpart.
In 1993, Rubens told this reporter, “The Democratic and Republican parties are indistinguishable defenders of what, for them, is a comfortable status quo.”
While he’s a Republican now, Ruben still goes his own way, and even today, echoed those words.
“The point that I make is we need a debate in the (Republican) primary because the two candidates that Wall Street has picked are fairly similar on the issues,” he said referring to Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen and Republican frontrunner Scott Brown.
“Our voters are not known for following the leader,” Rubens said. “They are not known for being led around by the nose hairs. And they are looking at the quality of the candidates. They want someone who can think, who can lead, who can provide ideas to solve the country’s problems.”
Rubens said that to win the general election the GOP nominee must be able to unite the party, “including grassroots conservatives.
“My endorsement today by the Republican Liberty Caucus shows that I’m pulling this off.”
What can the liberty caucus do for Jim Rubens? According to group chairman Aaron Day, it has about 650 “active participants” and there will be “considerable grassroots involvement” for a get-out-the-vote effort in the Sept. 9 primary – not only for Rubens, but also for its candidates in other races, including the state Senate.
While the membership may be small, the RLCNH the endorsement of Rubens could attract the attention of other conservatives and libertarian-minded Granite Staters outside of the group, not to mention help from RLC members nationally.
Still, Rubens and the RLCNH do not agree on everything.
Rubens believes climate change is man-made. Day said that is not the position of RLCNH, but “Jim’s position on that with respect to government intervention, we agree with 100 percent.”
Rubens’ position on how to deal with climate change has changed.
A centerpiece early in his campaign was a call for a carbon tax on emissions as part of a broad tax reform-deficit reduction plan. He now calls for an end to all subsidies and “tax preferences” on all forms of energy production. He said such a move would free entrepreneurs to develop inexpensive alternative energy sources and reduce the nation’s dependence on oil from unfriendly nations.
Rubens would not say specifically whether dropping the carbon tax was a condition of earning the RLCNH endorsement.
But he said that as a practical matter, “The carbon tax, as I learned after campaigning on it for many moons, is dead on arrival. It’s a non-starter.
“This issue has become in the minds of Democrats a partisan wedge issue, so they have decided to stop finding a solution that will work on a bipartisan basis. There are not the votes to do it, and because I believe there is a problem, it is incumbent on me to find something that will work politically.”
Day said there is no daylight between the RLCNH and the pro-choice Rubens on social issues. “He is in line with our platform on social issues as well as fiscal issues,” he said.
Day said the group likes Rubens because “he knows how to take risks, create jobs, create wealth. These are the skills that are sorely needed in Washington, D.C.” He also cited Rubens’ work as a state senator in helping to bring charter schools to the state.
“The Washington establishment has picked their candidates,” said Day, adding that the main argument for Washington is electability.
To answer that, Day cited John McCain, Mitt Romney and Karl Rove.
Rove’s American Crossroads PAC spent more than $100 million in 2012 “and won approximately zero races,” he said.
“The results are in. We no longer need to hold our noses when we go to the polls. We can have principle and party.”
Rubens called for allowing free public access to the airwaves not occupied by broadcast outlets through the so-called “Super WiFi.”
He called for shutting down the federal Department of Education and distributing money to the states through block grants.
He called for budget cuts throughout the federal government, including the Pentagon, for repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, and of the Dodd-Frank law.
He accused Shaheen and President Barack Obama of “shredding our Constitution” by allowing the federal government “to spy on hundreds of millions of innocent Americans” and by “compromising” Second Amendment rights.
On the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal, he said, “Sitting senators were informed two years ago that VA hospital administrators had been profiting by falsifying health care records and denying veterans the health care we owe them. Jeanne Shaheen grandstanding today about her concern for vets does not absolve her for her failure to demand and get action two years ago.”
He called for giving veterans vouchers to allow them to get care at hospitals of their choice.
Rubens signed the RLCNH “Stop Obamacare Pledge” to “not support the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in any form, including, but not limited to, expanding Medicaid in New Hampshire through the use of Federal funds, regardless of how those funds are allocated.”
Fellow GOP candidates Senate Bob Smith and Karen Testerman also signed it. Day said Brown declined.
Despite the widespread perception that Brown is headed toward a primary victory, Rubens said he is the one “uniting all parts of the Republican Party.” He said even “establishment Republicans” believe he is “completely credible, know what I’m talking about have solutions to issues, not crazy.” The Washington “big money” people find him “credible” and told him they will support him if he wins the nomination, he said.
Rubens has called for a voluntary program that would allow public financing of campaigns and has decried “dark money” from groups not required to disclose their donors.
Those include the RLC. But Rubens said, “I’m not going to handcuff myself in this primary.”
Still, he said, “You can see the impact of this system in New Hampshire. You can see candidates being selected for only one reason – Wall Street money.
“You’ve got two candidates with extremely similar positions, both backed by Wall Street, both deciding votes for Dodd-Frank, both harming small businesses. I find the present funding system to be highly inhibitory to debate.
“But,” he said, “I’m dealing with life as it is right now.”