- Associated Press - Thursday, September 6, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A running feud between two Republican candidates in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District was on full display at a televised debate Thursday night, with one saying a victory by the other would drag down the party.

Eddie Edwards also reiterated Thursday that he wouldn’t support opponent Andy Sanborn if the state senator wins the primary on Sept. 11. He remains concerned about Sanborn’s character in light of an inappropriate comment that he made to an intern in 2013 about oral sex.

The attorney general’s office investigated whether the Senate leadership tried to pay off an intern to keep quiet over the comment and found no wrongdoing. But transcripts related to the investigation showed there were several other incidents in which Sanborn made inappropriate comments, including subjecting a female legislative aide to almost daily comments about her dress and appearance.

“If Sen. Sanborn is our nominee, everything we are talking about tonight - the wall (on the Mexican border), taxes, security, our indebtedness- is all gone, is all gone. His candidacy will drag down the entire Republican Party,” Edwards said. “I am not going to support someone whom I know cannot deliver what we need delivered as Republicans.”

Sanborn, a four-term state senator who owns a sports bar in Concord, said he “cracked a joke” in the privacy of his office among his wife and friends, and that his opponents were just now bringing up what he said then because he is running for Congress. He acknowledged he would not make the same joke today.

“We know it was looked into and everyone reaffirmed it was a joke,” he said. “I make a decision I’m running for Congress and my political rivals all of sudden want to make a big deal about this just like President Trump. We see the liberal media, the liberal Republicans and those that don’t like conservatives trying to find every single way they can to find people who say things.”

Sanborn wasn’t as harsh in his criticism of Edwards, a Navy veteran who also served as a small-town police chief and chief enforcement officer for the state liquor commission. If he would win the election in November, Edwards would be the first African-American elected to Congress from New Hampshire.

Sanborn accused Edwards of only becoming a Republican when he joined the race and suggested his refusal to commit to supporting the primary winner “means he is saying go vote for (House Democratic leader) Nancy Pelosi.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very serious time in our life and it’s time for our party to come together and work behind the nominee and make sure we can keep Republican control of Congress,” he added.

The other candidates - Michael Callis of Conway, Jeffery Denaro of Auburn and Andy Martin of Manchester - mostly looked on as Edwards attacked Sanborn.

The winner of Tuesday’s primary hopes to replace U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election. The district, which covers the southeast part of the state and includes Manchester, is one of the few in the country that went for President Donald Trump and is now held by a Democrat.

Almost all the candidates expressed support for Trump and his policies - including building a wall on the Mexican border to slow the flow of drugs, doing away with the Affordable Care Act and cracking down on illegal immigration. But there wasn’t complete agreement with the president, with Denaro saying he was concerned about Trump’s comments at the summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Callis, a stone craft artist, went further and said he would support impeaching Trump and would embrace a single payer health care system - an idea pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Several also said more needed to be done to reduce the ballooning federal debt and cautioned against the Trump administration’s dismantling of environmental regulations. Noting the discovery of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl in the state’s groundwater, they argued that targeted regulations made sense.

“At the end of the day, this is really important to all of us,” said Sanborn, who comes from Bedford where contaminated water has been found. “When we turn on the faucet and get a drink of water, we want to know it’s safe. There is a role for government. It’s to help people in need, to solve some of these problems.”

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