In NH01 GOP debate, candidates differ on federal gas tax

MANCHESTER—Three Republican candidates for the 1st District U.S. House seat differed on how to address the nation and state’s infrastructure needs in a radio debate Wednesday morning on WGIR-AM.


Former UNH business school dean Dan Innis said that to shore up the ailing federal highway trust fund, he would entertain a federal gas tax hike, but he would not say to what degree he would support raising the tax.


“It is a range,” he said. “When you explore an issue of this complexity, you’ve got to put everything on the table…Congress needs to come together and explore this.”


Frank Guinta, a former U.S. House member and former Manchester mayor, said he would not support such an increase and proposed using funds from expanded oil exploration leases for the dedicated highway trust fund.


Innis said the “tax” that Guinta would impose on exploration “is going to be passed on to consumers.” Guinta said it is not a tax and would not be passed on.


Former Seabrook selectman Brendan Kelly, who ran for the seat in 2012 as a Libertarian, said the federal government has a role in maintaining interstate highways.


“The problem is we take too much money to get too little results,” he said.



The issue was one of many covered in an hour-long debate on the “New Hampshire Today” program hosted by Jack Heath. Questions were posed by New Hampshire Journal news editor John DiStaso and Heath to the three candidates vying for the right to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in November. The primary is Sept. 9.


Click here for a podcast of the full debate.

Innis, despite voting in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary and backing Democrat Jackie Cilley for governor in 2012, said he has been a Republican “all my life,” and is “the most conservative candidate in this race” on fiscal issues.


Guinta, despite being backed by current House leaders Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, said he is independent and as a House member would be obligated to vote the way the district wants.


“I have no problem breaking with the leadership at any time,” he said.


Innis criticized Guinta for supporting the leadership and backing the Patriot Act, which he said is unconstitutional. He said the federal government “is spying on us on a regular basis.”


Guinta answered, “You either stand with the terrorists or you stand with freedom.” But he also said President Obama has acted through executive order in a way that is “counter to the law that is currently on the books.”


Innis, Guinta and Kelly said they would support term limits. Innis said he backs no more than two six-year terms for a senator and six two-year terms for a House member. Kelly said he would serve no more than two terms.


Innis, while not naming Guinta specifically, said that “part of the problem in Washington is people who have been in politics too long.”


Guinta said, “When I decided to serve in this state it was based on serving. It was not about a career.


“I understand that Dan has to beat me up somehow,” Guinta said. “I get that. I get that’s part of the playbook, that he’s got to somehow knock me down.”


Guinta and Innis also backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s mobilization of the National Guard to address the border crisis in his state.


Innis is openly gay and is married to another man. The national and state Republican platforms support marriage as being between one man and one woman but Innis said there is “a movement away from that stance” in the GOP.


“It will take some time,” he said. “This is something people have to get used to.….I would be real surprised if in five years we’re still talking about this.”


Guinta, although he has voiced support for “traditional” marriage, said, “Most of us would like to see the government leave us alone.” And, he said, the wording of the party platform is not up to a congressman.


Kelly said he is a Christian and believes “marriage is between a man, his wife and the church, and government should have nothing to do it.”


Innis said that he is running for the seat, his first attempt at elective politics because “I’m fed up.”

Guinta said there has been a “lack of leadership” from Shea-Porter and President Barack Obama and he more closely reflects the voter sentiment of the district than Shea-Porter and his fellow Republican candidates.


Kelly said he is running because “I have great angst about the huge debt that we have in this country.”


Author: John DiStaso

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