- Associated Press - Saturday, October 29, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Five candidates are seeking to represent New Hampshire’s two congressional districts - two Republican, two Democrats and one Independent.

In the 1st Congressional District, which covers eastern New Hampshire and the city of Manchester, Republican Rep. Frank Guinta is trying to hold his seat against former Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and Independent candidate Shawn O'Connor. The 2nd congressional district includes eastern and northern New Hampshire and the cities of Nashua and Concord. Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster is fighting to hold her seat against Republican Jim Lawrence, an Air Force veteran and former state lawmaker.

The candidates’ responses to questions from The Associated Press about regarding key issues in the race:

FIRST PRIORITY

The candidates offer a variety of ideas for the first pieces of legislation they’d pursue if elected.

Shea-Porter, who previously served three terms, said she’d introduced a bill to expand the Veterans Administration Hospital, in Manchester, to a full-service hospital and fix the program that allows veterans to get service from private doctors when a nearby VA hospital isn’t available. Guinta, meanwhile, says he’d push legislation aimed at cracking down on illegal drug manufacturing and trading by ending “sanctuary cities” and giving more resources to law enforcement. O'Connor, the independent challenger, says his first bill would be one to cut Congressional salaries, therefore eliminating “personal enrichment” of politicians. He’s pledged to work for the minimum wage and give the rest of his salary to charity.

Kuster’s office said she’d continue to push for passage of “Carl’s Law,” a bill named after a New Hampshire man who died from a drug overdose. He was in recovery from heroin when he took prescription cough syrup that re-triggered his addiction. Kuster’s bill would require medicines include clear warnings if they could trigger drug-seeking behavior. Her Republican opponent, Lawrence, said his first priority would be protecting Social Security by ensuring money collected through payroll taxes are in a secure fund that can’t be spent on anything else.

HEALTH CARE

The future of the Affordable Care Act has been a key debate in Congress and will continue to be given recent news of 2017 premium hikes. Only Guinta backs an outright repeal of the law, something he’s voted for several times. Lawrence, a fellow Republican, says too many Americans rely on the law and “you can’t just rip their health care away.”

The candidates offer a handful of similar ideas to reform the law. Kuster backs legislation to secure small businesses against premium hikes and wants to repeal the medical device tax. Guinta said he’d like to see expanded options for health savings accounts and laws that allow people to buy across state lines. O’Connor and Lawrence also said they support plans to let people buy insurance policies in other states.

Shea-Porter and O'Connor both support allowing people to buy into a public option, like Medicare, if they choose. Both also back giving the Medicare program more power to negotiate prescription drug prices.

FOREIGN POLICY

All five candidates were asked by The Associated Press whether the United States should be doing more to intervene in Syria and whether they support the use of U.S. ground troops to combat the Islamic State. All five said they do not support sending group troops, beyond existing special operations forces, to engage against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

On the Syrian crisis, O'Connor said he supports the creation of a “no fly zone” over Aleppo, the center of the country’s civil war. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also backs no fly zones aimed at protecting innocent civilians, but the Obama administration has not set one up over worries it could lead to a deeper conflict with Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Both Guinta and Lawrence offered limited ideas on what they would do differently. But both borrowed a line from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying the U.S. shouldn’t be telegraphing its military plans in advance. Iraq and a U.S.-led coalition recently began a battle to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State. Trump says the mission is a disaster.

Shea-Porter, who won in 2006 on an anti-war platform, said sending more U.S. troops in the Middle East would be “counterproductive.” But she did call for more humanitarian aid in the Syrian civil war. Neither she nor Kuster offered new or different ways the United States should be approaching both conflicts.

GUNS

The candidates fall along party lines when it comes to background checks.

Both Kuster and Shea-Porter are in favor of expanding gun background checks to gun shows and online sales. Guinta and Lawrence, meanwhile, say police should enforce the laws on the book. Both say too many people have been allowed to buy guns illegally because background checks aren’t going through fast enough.

O'Connor also supports closing the so-called “gun show loophole” and setting up systems for quicker background checks.

THE NOMINEES

The presidential nominees aren’t exactly popular, but the candidates continue to stick with them.

Both Guinta and Lawrence say they’ll back Trump. In an NH1 News debate this week, Guinta didn’t answer when asked if he believes the women who have come forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault. Lawrence said the comments aren’t acceptable but that he’s far more aligned with Trump on issues like the economy and foreign policy.

Also in the NH1 debates, neither Kuster nor Shea-Porter offered a full answer on whether Clinton is trustworthy. Both said she made a mistake using a private email server as secretary of state but said they strongly support her.

O'Connor said he does not support Clinton or Trump but will work with whichever candidate is elected.

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