EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 2, 2012

Guinta, Shea-Porter in bitter battle

Economy, health care two of main issues

By Doug Ireland direland@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — With only four days to go before the election, the 1st Congressional District race between Frank Guinta and Carol Shea-Porter is heating up — with one attack after another.

Tonight, the two rivals will continue their battle over job creation, health care and other issues in a televised debate at St. Anselm College.

In the last two days, their campaigns have been sparring over whether New Hampshire should adopt a constitutional amendment that prohibits a state income tax. It’s a central issue for many candidates in the election Tuesday.

Guinta, seeking election to his second two-year term, joined the state’s other top Republican candidates at a press conference Wednesday in Concord to voice their support for the hotly debated Question 1.

Shea-Porter, a former Democratic congresswoman whom Guinta defeated in 2010, responded late Wednesday night by criticizing him for not being in Washington to tackle key economic issues facing the nation.

“My position is that there is no need to pass a constitutional amendment because no one is proposing a state income tax,” Shea-Porter said in a statement.

Guinta contends the amendment would ensure an income tax is never adopted.

Shea-Porter continued her attack.

“However, the real question is: Why is Congressman Frank Guinta hanging around the State Capitol?” the 59-year-old Rochester resident said. “Shouldn’t he be at the Federal Capitol, fixing the mess he left us in and stopping us from going over the fiscal cliff he and his tea party colleagues created?”

Guinta, 42, said in an interview yesterday the income tax ban is just one of many issues that divide the two candidates.

The former Manchester mayor said he has remained in the state this week as thousands of New Hampshire residents cope with the storm aftermath caused by Sandy. He will not return to Washington until Nov. 13.

Shea-Porter’s campaign did not respond to requests for an interview. She was elected to Congress in 2006, re-elected two years later, then lost to Guinta by 12 percentage points in 2010.

Guinta said this is the first time during the race that Shea-Porter has weighed in on the income tax issue.

“My opponent has been silent on this issue, but she has supported pro-income tax proponents, especially at the gubernatorial level,” Guinta said. “I think she needs to explain, essentially, why she supports an income tax.”

Guinta’s campaign staff issued its own statement yesterday, saying Shea-Porter continues to ignore the wishes of New Hampshire residents.

“Just as Carol Shea-Porter refused to listen to her constituents when it came to Obamacare, a national energy tax, or even the wasteful stimulus, the former congresswoman once again has taken the side of the extreme partisan wing of her party rather than New Hampshire taxpayers,” the statement said.

Several hours later, Shea-Porter responded by criticizing Guinta, saying he has a “heartless record” of voting to slash funding of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Congressman Guinta has decided that it is important for congressional candidates to weigh in on state issues, yet in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, he has dodged questions about why he voted to cut funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency,” the statement said. “New Hampshire, which has just received a federal emergency declaration, deserves to know why he voted against protecting the state and its citizens.”

As the bitter attacks continue, the key issues of the campaign continue to be the economy and health care.

“I think the most important issue for people is the economy,” Guinta said. “No matter who you talk to, they talk about the economy and their futures — their children’s and their grandchildren’s.”

Three weeks ago, the two candidates battled over the creation of jobs, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act during a debate.

Guinta took aim at the federal stimulus program backed by Shea-Porter, saying it failed to reduce unemployment. Shea-Porter countered by saying the jobless rate would have been even higher without the program.

She also said Guinta, as Manchester’s mayor, was content to accept stimulus money for the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

Guinta said yesterday his opponent supports increasing taxes, not reducing federal spending.

He also said the Affordable Care Act, backed by Shea-Porter, has failed to improve accessibility to health care and reduce medical costs.

Shea-Porter said during the debate that the Affordable Care Act’s focus on preventive care will help control future Medicare costs because senior citizens would be healthier and less reliant on the federal program.

A recent University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll of 590 people favored Guinta, 40 percent to 33 percent over Shea-Porter. Libertarian Brendan Kelly was favored 3 percent and 24 percent were undecided.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.