- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

RINDGE, N.H. (AP) - Three Republican candidates for the state’s 2nd Congressional District debated at Franklin Pierce University on Tuesday, tackling issues including campaign advertising and national border security.

The debate, the second in the university’s Monadnock Debates series, featured state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, former state Sen. Gary Lambert and former state Rep. Jim Lawrence. Another candidate, ex-Concord City Council member Mike Little, didn’t respond.

The debate, which turned contentious on talk of campaign ad rhetoric, covered topics such as gun control, immigration, foreign policy and alternative energy. The candidates spent a considerable amount of time on immigration, all of them wanting to see more security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

However, Garcia broke with the other two candidates at the debate by saying she also would like to see some sort of status short of citizenship granted to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally as a way of getting those who are working onto the tax rolls and those who are committing crimes deported.

“I want to expand the dialogue,” Garcia said. “Liberals have controlled these issues for too long. It’s about time Republicans have a voice in the discussion.”

Lambert countered that what Garcia was proposing amounted to amnesty for immigrants who are in the country illegally and said that he wouldn’t even entertain discussion on changing immigration laws until the border is secure. Lawrence said he wanted to change the law that treats children from some foreign countries differently than others when it comes to deportation.

Each candidate also weighed in on the turmoil and violence in Iraq. Lawrence and Lambert opposed having U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, with Lambert, a 35-year military veteran who served there, saying, “I was one of those boots on the ground. … We’ve done enough there.”

The three candidates also differed on what should be done with the U.S. defense budget. Garcia suggested that everything, including defense, should be on the table when it comes to budget cuts, although she said those could come from eliminating inefficiencies. Lambert said rather than focusing on new weapons and equipment his goal would be to focus on getting veterans more money and better health care. Lawrence said he wants troops to have the equipment they need to fight ever more sophisticated enemies but added, “The best way to cut the defense budget is to make sure we have a strong defense posture and foreign policy to make sure we are not deploying troops.”

The candidates are competing in the Sept. 9 primary for the nod to run against first-term incumbent Democrat Annie Kuster.

The debates are co-sponsored by the Fitzwater Center for Communication, New Hampshire Public Television and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. They kicked off last week with gubernatorial candidates.

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