SALEM, N.H. — Attracting young people to the Republican party was at the forefront of town, state and presidential candidates at the Salem GOP meeting Thursday night.
Senate candidate Bryant "Corky" Messner and presidential candidate Mark Sanford attended the monthly meeting to speak with Salem voters. When taking questions Messner and Sanford were asked about how to attract young people to the party by members of the seemingly older crowd.
Both businessmen-turned-candidates launched their campaigns in September, and are vying for primary votes.
Messner is competing with Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc and former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien in the Republican primary against incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Sanford is opposing President Donald Trump, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh in the presidential primary.
Both Messner and Sanford want to focus on the opportunity and prosperity the party is bringing people, using their business backgrounds to explain how they would bring that message out in their campaigns.
Messner, who is the president and CEO of a law firm with offices across the country, wants to preserve the American Dream by preserving individual liberties and economic freedom.
"This notion that all business is bad, I'm here to tell you I've represented a lot of businesses and by far the people that run those companies care about people and want to take care of people, and they are not these mean profit mongers," Messner said.
Having mentioned that he represented Chipotle along other well-known national chains, Messner said that he was in favor of the recent federal tax legislation that was passed.
A West Point graduate and U.S. Army Ranger prior to attending the University of Denver College of Law, Messner started the Colorado-based business law firm Messner Reeves, LLP. He pointed to his experiences in the military, as a lawyer and a small business owner as reasons he would be knowledgeable to serve the people of New Hampshire.
Salem voters wanted to know how he intended to defeat Shaheen, and was uniquely qualified to do so.
Messner said that he was building a strong team, including former George W. Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh.
He talked about his conservative values, including being anti-abortion and supporting gun ownership. Messner would have supported the nominations of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court because they are Constitutionalists who believe the Constitution should be taken verbatim, he said.
Messner was asked how he could appeal his candidacy to younger voters with more conservative viewpoints. He told a story of how he was able to bond with his two sons over teaching them to fire his AR rifle, "and my boys ended up at West Point," he said with pride. A father of three children, Messner's daughter is studying to be a doctor.
Sanford, a commercial real estate businessman outside of politics, has served many terms in South Carolina as a representative, a senator and governor. Running with the words "fiscal conservative" on his campaign logo, Sanford said he was running for the Oval Office to spark a conversation about the country's deficit.
Acknowledging he was a long-shot, Sanford said his priority was to get a conversation started about the party's future. Recalling the expansion of government under Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt's three terms after Herbert Hoover served as president during the Great Depression, Sanford said that he wanted to take care of economic issues before the party would have potentially negative political ramifications.
Sanford also said that he was afraid younger voters — particularly young parents — might be turned off to the party because of rhetoric used by the current president.
He wants his candidacy to encourage the conversation around these topics and said that he does believe President Trump has done good in office, like his nomination of judges and deregulation.
Sanford made a concerted effort to thank the Republicans for hosting an event he could speak at and hosting a Republican primary.
Sanford's home state of South Carolina is not hosting a Republican primary nomination contest, joining Nevada and Kansas as states whose GOP has canceled the primary.
"Kudos to New Hampshire for upholding the democratic traditions that we inherited from our founding fathers by practicing these traditions, one of which is called an election," Sanford said, adding that the town hall discussions of ideas were fundamental to creating the important dialogue that strengthened the party's platform.