CONCORD, N.H. -- Republican rivals in New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District argued about their Statehouse attendance records in a debate Wednesday, with one candidate suggesting that not showing up was better than voting the wrong way.
State Rep. Marilinda Garcia, former state Sen. Gary Lambert and former state Rep. Jim Lawrence are competing in the Sept. 9 primary for a chance to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster in November. During a debate on WGIR-AM, Lambert criticized Garcia for missing a vote on whether to expand the state's Medicaid program under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.
"I don't know where she was or whether or not she was worried about her congressional campaign," Lambert said. "But that was a time when we could've prevented Obamacare from coming to New Hampshire through Medicaid expansion, and quite frankly, Rep. Garcia was more concerned about her political career."
"I'm going to have a chuckle, then I'd love to respond," said Garcia, who apologized for missing the vote but noted she had spoken against it when it was in committee. She then reeled off a half-dozen votes cast by Lambert that she said go against Republican values, including a bill that would have allowed health insurance to be purchased across state lines and another that would have repealed a regional cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
"Those are all votes, I somewhat have to say, I wish you were absent for," she said.
Garcia and Lambert also tangled over campaign fundraising, accusing each other of accepting illegal donations. Lambert cast Garcia's large base of out-of-state donors as proof that she lacks the support of New Hampshire voters, while she cast it as proof that her message is getting out.
Lawrence criticized them both, saying such arguments are a distraction.
"This campaign should be about the issues," he said. "This is the type of thing that turns people off from politics."
Debate moderator John Distaso of NH Journal asked the trio whether they agreed with House Speaker John Boehner, who announced a lawsuit against Obama for failing to enforce U.S. laws, a potential starting point for impeachment proceedings. Garcia said legal action is necessary if the president oversteps his authority. Lambert said he supports the lawsuit but not impeachment, while Lawrence said "some action should be taken."
Asked to say one positive thing about Obama, Lambert said he gives the president credit for being a good parent and providing "good messaging on what fathers should be doing." The others weren't willing to give an inch, however. Garcia said the president has "allowed us to realize that we've taken a lot for granted in this country," while Lawrence said he is "showing us a good example of what not to do" on foreign policy.
A WMUR Granite State Poll released this month had Kuster leading her Republican challengers.