- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - Two Republicans competing in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District drew dividing lines Wednesday over issues ranging from gun laws and leadership to trust and Donald Trump.

U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, the incumbent, and Rich Ashooh, a business executive from Bedford, are seeking the GOP nomination in the Sept. 13 primary. They met for their first debate Wednesday morning as part of a series organized by New England College and hosted by WGIR radio.

While both men said better enforcement of current laws rather than new laws would be the best approach to preventing mass shootings, Guinta tried to suggest his opponent favors further restrictions.

“You don’t go after the Second Amendment, you go after the criminals,” he said. “I don’t support gun control as my opponent just said he did.”

Ashooh countered by asking Guinta if that means he would favor repealing existing laws meant to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, such as background check requirements. Guinta did not respond.

Speaking the morning after Trump officially became the GOP presidential nominee, Ashooh said he will vote for the billionaire businessman but stopped short of endorsing him. Instead, he said he’d focus on his own campaign.

Guinta, who said he doesn’t agree with all of Trump’s positions but has endorsed him, accused Ashooh of turning his back on fellow Republicans.

“You’ve got to be a team player, it can’t just be about yourself,” he said.

Ashooh, a former executive at BAE Systems, lost the GOP primary to Guinta in 2010, the year Guinta went on to defeat Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter. She won again in 2012, lost to Guinta in 2014 and is running again this year.

Guinta has seen his poll numbers and funding drop off since last year, when the Federal Election Commission found he illegally accepted a $355,000 donation from his parents in 2010. Guinta, who for years insisted he and his wife had saved the money through hard work, later told the FEC the money came from a “family pot” of money he contributed to and managed under his parents’ names.

Guinta said the matter is resolved and that he settled with the FEC to put it behind him, but Ashooh said voters are frustrated with Guinta, partly because they don’t trust him.

“We all make mistakes. This is not a mistake. This was a situation where Frank knew exactly what he was doing,” he said. “If you’re right, you fight. You don’t settle.”

Guinta pressed Ashooh to name instances where he would have voted differently than Guinta in Congress.

“It’s not about votes,” Ashooh said. “Anyone can show up and click the card. I think it’s about leadership.”

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