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The Dartmouth
June 12, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Congresswoman Annie Kuster discusses reelection campaign, cuts event short

Kuster discussed her congressional track record since taking office in 2013, before leaving the stage early due to a "disruption," according to the Dartmouth Democrats.

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On Oct. 20, about 40 students gathered in the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy to listen to Congresswoman Annie Kuster ’78, the Democratic five-term incumbent and nominee for New Hampshire’s second congressional district, speak about a range of topics including the COVID-19 pandemic and bipartisan congressional task forces on mental health and sexual violence. 

The event, which was titled “A Conversation with Congresswoman Annie Kuster ’78,” ended abruptly when, during the question and answer period, incessant questioning from two audience members caused the congresswoman to leave early. 

While Kuster’s campaign had previously declined the Dartmouth Political Union’s invitation to speak in a town-hall style candidate forum hosted by the Dartmouth Political Union, like her Republican opponent Robert Burns did on Oct. 17, members of her campaign staff reached out to the Dartmouth Democrats to host the congresswoman at one of their club meetings, according to Dartmouth Democrats president Gabi Rodriguez ’23. 

The event was opened by Jazz Carlson, a local Democratic organizer who spoke about the importance of voting, and Prescott Herzog ’25, who introduced Kuster. Kuster, who then took the podium, discussed a wide range of issues and criticized Burns for being an “extreme” and “far right” Republican with whom she disagrees with on a number of issues, including the causes of climate change, marriage equality and abortion rights.  

The congresswoman also discussed her work since taking office in 2013, including her service on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, as well as legislative work related to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health, vaccine research, environmental conservation and the opioid crisis. She said that she is also the founder and co-chair of the bipartisan congressional task force on mental health and addiction and co-chair of the bipartisan congressional task force to end sexual violence.

Kuster especially highlighted Burns’s stance on abortion, adding that Burns calls for a “nationwide abortion ban with no exceptions.” 

“He’s gone so far as to say that he wants what he calls ‘panels’ … that he would bring in if a woman’s life was in danger and she needed to have an abortion,” Kuster said. “Not the woman, not the physician, not the husband — but some other people [whom] I call ‘dudes in suits’ that would be making this decision about her life.”

According to Burns’ campaign website, he is “pro-life” and would support legislation in Congress banning abortion upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat, while also supporting continued access to contraceptives and adoption options. 

Some of the questions asked by students tackled topics regarding U.S. aid to Ukraine, reproductive health and justice and gun violence.

Kuster also discussed the state of democracy in relation to the Jan. 6 uprisings, which she described as a “coup attempt.”

In an interview after the event, Rodriguez said that this event was important because of the Dartmouth Democrats’ goal to elect “progressive Democrats” throughout New Hampshire and the United States.

Fiona Hood ’26 said she came to the event to learn more about Kuster’s campaign.

“I vote Democrat, so I wanted to see Rep. Kuster in person and hear more about what she’s trying to do for the state,” she said.

Similarly, Gavin Johnson ’26 said he attended because he wanted “to learn more about Rep. Kuster’s policies and learn about why I should vote for her.”

Tuna Akmehmet ’26, who also attended the DPU event with the Republican nominee Robert Burns, said that he identifies as a progressive Democrat and wanted to ask Kuster about her views on universal healthcare. 

Rodriguez said that a question asked by former College Republicans president Chloe Ezzo ’22 — which Rodriguez said was meant to be the last question of the event because of time constraints — is what caused Kuster to leave.

During the Q&A, Ezzo asked Kuster to comment on a tweet from New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Raymond Buckley on Sept. 30, which focused on a parent’s right to know if their children are receiving gender identity counseling in schools. He wrote that those who advocate for requiring parental disclosure are “purposely going after children, endangering their lives, mental health & safety.” The tweet continues: “Not all families are the same, some kids will be kicked out or beaten (to death) or commit suicide. All to try to get votes for Karoline [Leavitt]?”

Leavitt, the Republican candidate running in the first congressional district, has advocated for parents' right to know, according to WMUR. The New Hampshire House rejected a proposal in May that would require schools to notify parents about changes to their student's behavior, including about gender identity.

Another attendee, who Rodriguez identified as former College Republicans president Griffin Mackey ’21 — who, as an alumnus, should not have been present at the event, Rodriguez said — stood up in support of Ezzo’s question and asked Kuster if she supported Buckley’s statement. 

While Kuster interrupted Ezzo to point out her purview as a congresswoman, Ezzo and Mackey continued to question the candidate, even when Kuster’s aide and Rodriguez asked them to leave the event. Kuster’s aides then escorted Kuster out of the room, resulting in a premature end to the discussion. Ezzo and Mackey pursued the congresswoman out of the building to her car requesting her comment, according to an account published by Ezzo online.

Ezzo responded to questions about the incident in an email statement to The Dartmouth, writing, “God forbid anyone who is not from NHNPR [sic] ask Rep. Ann Kuster a question.” 

While a member from Safety and Security was present at the event, he did not take action while Kuster’s aides asked the two attendees to leave and escorted the congresswoman out, according to Rodriguez. 

“I think we should call it what it is — that was just a calculated disruption,” Rodriguez said after the event. “It appeared that those people were coordinated for that aggressive attack. [The incident showed] Democrats and the club how important it is to fight for our candidates, for our Democratic values and for our beliefs that do not align with those of the Republicans.”

Rodriguez said that she reported the incident to the Committee on Standards, following a suggestion from assistant dean for student life Edward McKenna, who attended the event.  

College director of communications for student affairs Elizabeth Ellis wrote that the College reviews every report of potential violations of the Standards of Conduct, whether submitted by the Safety and Security or directly from community members. 

“We do not comment on investigations or conduct reviews,” she wrote. 

Mackey did not respond to requests for comment by press time. 

Correction appended (Oct. 27, 12:45 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Rep. Chris Pappas and Rep. Annie Kuster voted against a proposal that would require schools that receive federal funds to inform parents about students' gender identity. The proposal appeared in the New Hampshire House. A version of this article also incorrectly suggested that Rep. Kuster declined to participate in a candidate forum hosted by the Dartmouth Political Union alongside her Republican opponent Robert Burns. The event which she declined would have been an individual, town-hall style forum hosted by the DPU. The article has been updated. 

Correction appended (Jan. 23, 11:15 p.m.): A previous version of this article mischaracterized the interaction between Rep. Annie Kuster and Chloe Ezzo ’22. Ezzo did not engage in heckling and her questions were interrupted by Rep. Kuster. The article has been updated.