Hassan and Ayotte speak at forum

by Amanda Zhou | 10/14/16 12:45am


Professor Emily Blanchard spoke with Kelly Ayotte and Maggie Hassan in a public forum on Thursday afternoon.

by Tiffany Zhai / The Dartmouth

Yesterday, Tuck School of Business professor Emily Blanchard sat down as a moderator with Senate candidates Kelly Ayotte, the Republican incumbent, and current New Hampshire Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. The two spoke separately in a public forum to discuss their views. Both candidates are matched evenly with each other in the polls, making New Hampshire one of the tightest Senate races in the country. In addition, the Associated Press reported that funding for this senate race is predicted to exceed a $100 million in total, which will break the record in New Hampshire.

The event included two separate forums, each lasting an hour, with time at the end for pre-approved student questions directed at each candidate. During the event, Blanchard brought up issues such as the government’s role in keeping corporations accountable, facilitating international trade without displacing jobs and foreign policy issues. She also asked each candidate what she thought could be done to increase the number of elections with women on both tickets.

At the event, both candidates stressed the importance of quick vocational training for New Hampshire workers and United States military power in establishing safe zones and defeating ISIS. Hassan also stressed her own work in decreasing college tuition in New Hampshire while Ayotte mentioned her previous bipartisan efforts and her work on the armed service committee in the Senate.

Government professor Linda Fowler said, in this election, neither candidate is making a big issue about their party.

“[Ayotte] is trying to dissociate herself from the Republican party and she’s chosen a bunch of symbolic issues to do that,” Fowler said. These issues include the opioid epidemic or women’s health.

“It’s not necessarily clear that that’s what the voters care about, but it solves her problem [of being] a relatively conservative Republican running in a purple state,” Fowler added.

Charlie Blatt ’18, president of the College Democrats, said she believes Ayotte advocates for policies that make her popular rather than what she thinks is best. She said one issue that particularly upsets her is that Ayotte is supporting a bill that will make birth control available over the counter, which will prevent health insurance from covering the cost. Blatt said that this support is an example of Ayotte choosing a policy that looks good on the surface that has hidden repercussions.

Fowler said that Ayotte is running as the classic incumbent who has gotten things done in the past. However, both Senate candidates are well liked within New Hampshire and do not hold extreme views. In events such as the forum, the candidates are competing for the votes of independent middle class suburbanites, which have been volatile in the last few elections, Fowler said.

Government professor Joseph Bafumi said in addition to independents swing voters could be young people, who tend to be less partisan.

He said what is often more important than the [forum] itself is the coverage that comes up afterwards, as it can sway voters towards certain candidates.

Abraham Herrera ’18, who attended the event and is also a member of the College Republicans, said that Hassan’s forum dealt more with foreign policy than he expected and was surprised and impressed by the level of depth in her answers concerning the refugee crisis, Syria and ISIS. He added that Hassan is not known to be strong on national security, and while he may not agree with some of her opinions, she was a lot more knowledgeable on the subjects than he expected her to be.

Fowler said Ayotte has criticized Hassan for not being “tough enough” on military issues and previously has emphasized her own role in defense and on the armed services committee on the Senate. Fowler said something that has helped Hassan is that Ayotte has “very awkwardly” endorsed Donald Trump and then after the Billy Bush tape, retracted her endorsement of the Republican presidential candidate.

Blatt also pointed out that Ayotte, before un-endorsing Trump, had called him “a good role model,” a statement she later took back. In contrast, Blatt described a positive experience she had with Hassan during Blatt’s freshmen year. In the meeting, Blatt especially warmed to Hassan after Hassan asked about her. She added that she felt like Hassan has also fought for women’s rights, such as working to refund Planned Parenthood and created economic opportunity in the state.

Herrera said he had previously worked on Ayotte’s campaign and Super PAC. He said three reasons he supports her include her work concerning with national security, protecting the environment and the economic policy of keeping taxes low and bringing business back to New Hampshire.

“She’s one of the few Republicans to be bipartisan on this issue and do a lot and do something about conserving the environment,” Herrera said.

Herrera said it was refreshing to hear what both sides had to say concerning trade which he said is a big issue in this election and he was surprised that Hassan was not opposed to free trade. Blanchard commented during the forum that it is rare that both presidential candidates oppose a trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this election.