KEENE, N.H. (AP) - Diner customers across the state got attention from political candidates along with their coffee on Monday as Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and her Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan, made their final appeal for votes.
A Kelly even sat across from a Maggie in a booth at the Four Aces Diner in Lebanon - Kelly Allison and her 4-year-old daughter, Maggie Allison. When Ayotte stopped by and introduced herself, the girl peppered her with questions and gave her a special rock for good luck.
“Someday, can you come to play at our house?” she asked.
Ayotte, a former attorney general seeking a second U.S. Senate term, and Hassan, who has served two terms as governor, are in a tight race that will help determine control of the Senate, where Republicans hold a slight edge. A WMUR-TV Granite State Poll released Sunday showed Hassan slightly ahead, 48 percent to 43 percent, with 8 percent of likely voters undecided.
Hassan stopped by Brewbakers coffee shop in Keene, where she picked up a cappuccino with the message “VOTE” spelled out in the foam.
“A number of people have asked me a question or two and then said, ‘OK, I’ll vote for you now,’” Hassan said. “Sometimes it’s a piece of information they’re missing. Sometimes the decision seems to be more about the top of the ticket and less about our race.”
Ayotte has argued Hassan would be a rubber stamp for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton should she win the White House, and Hassan has frequently criticized Ayotte’s evolving relationship with Republican nominee Donald Trump.
For months, Ayotte supported but didn’t endorse Trump, even calling him a role model for children, a statement she later took back. After the release of a 2005 recording in which Trump bragged about forcing himself on women, kissing them and groping them, Ayotte dropped her support altogether.
Sandy Swinburne, of Marlborough, told Hassan her top issue is campaign finance reform “because all other issues depend on that.” Swinburne, an independent, said she disagrees with Ayotte’s support for the death penalty.
While she’s not particularly happy with Democrats, she said, she’ll be voting for Hassan.
The Lebanon diner was Ayotte’s sixth stop of the day, putting her a quarter of the way through the 24 locations she planned to visit in the 24 hours before casting her vote in Nashua on Tuesday morning. She said she has come across numerous undecided voters in the last several days.
“I think one-on-one conversations are important, and also there’s so much on TV that it’s really helpful to be able to talk to someone about issues and answer any questions they have,” she said. “That’s really what this process is all about.”
Brian Allison, whose daughter grilled Ayotte at the diner, said his family recently moved to Grantham from Colorado but he’s been impressed with Ayotte and will vote for her on Tuesday.
“She’s pro-life, she’s pro-Second Amendment,” said Allison, a Republican. “Those are two good reasons right there.”
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