Three leading Republican candidates vying to challenge Annie Kuster lay out their differences

Lily Tang Williams worries that her new country is quickly mirroring her old one. She grew up in Communist China, through Mao’s Cultural Revolution, and came to the United States in 1988 as a Fulbright-sponsored teacher. Today, the threats of socialism and government intervention remind her of her past, she says.

Now, the small-business owner and activist who is aligned with the Free State Project is running for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Representative Annie Kuster for the state’s second congressional district seat.

Unlike Williams, who is quick to boast that she is an outsider who has made America her home, her opponents are two people familiar with the Granite State – Robert Burns and George Hansel, longtime residents of the New Hampshire.

The candidates, who agree on a few issues, unanimously say their district, which consists of the majority of the state outside Manchester and Portsmouth, needs a new Republican leader.

Kuster, who is seeking his 6th term in Congress, has served the state for more than a decade. Her three main challengers say she’s a puppet to President Joe Biden and isn’t doing enough to put in place a policy that specifically focuses on New Hampshire.

While quick to criticize Kuster’s allegiance to his party leader, Burns isn’t afraid of his. Burns, who ran unsuccessfully for Executive Council in 2012 and 2014, is an unabashedly pro-Trump candidate, he said during a debate hosted by New England College earlier this week.

He was a delegate to New Hampshire for former President Donald Trump in the 2016 election and has photos of him and Trump on his campaign website.

His allegiance to the former president goes beyond his involvement in the 2016 election. It also leads to skepticism about the 2020 contest, in which Biden won in New Hampshire with 52.9% of the vote.

“Yeah, it was absolutely compromised,” he said. “We are not election deniers, obviously there are a lot of problems with our vote… When a vote is stolen, it doesn’t matter if the election is stolen, when a vote is stolen, it is important and must be taken care of.”

Hansel, who is the mayor of Keene and the only candidate for office currently elected, disagrees.

He acknowledged that Biden is the current president after winning the 2020 election, but what alarms him is how many Americans disagree with that fact. It stems from a lack of trust in the Justice Department’s government in the president, he said.

“That’s probably the most critical thing right now is this lack of trust in these institutions,” he said. “If we don’t have universal faith in these things, we’re going to have a hard time keeping this country together.”

A Republican majority in Congress will fix this problem by restoring confidence across the country, he said.

“We need strong Republicans in Washington who will stand up for fairness, stand up for standards, and stand up for transparency,” he said.

An immediate policy proposal that Hansel wants to see in Congress, focuses directly on the granite state – heating costs.

“We need a fighter to come down and protect the stability of home heating oil prices. This is something that is uniquely and specifically relevant to New Hampshire,” he said.

Burns focused on labor — another unique New Hampshire issue in an aging state trying to retain a youthful employee base — calling for essential manufacturing to return to the United States.

Pharmaceuticals, food, vitamins and other products can be made locally, he said. This would take business out of China, which poses a threat to national security.

Williams, who is backed by the Tea Party Express, a political action committee that supports the Tea Party movement, turned to a national proposal. She promised to abolish the Department of Education as her first act in Congress.

“As a mother of three and totally indoctrinated in communist China, I see how American parental rights are being marginalized and the left is taking over our classrooms,” she said. “The Biden administration’s education department is going to have taxpayer dollars to teach critical race theory and gender-affirming stuff in our schools.”

With inflation at its highest level in 40 years in July, all three candidates agreed that federal spending is driving the price hike. If elected, each has pledged to cut costs and focus on the deficit.

Hansel has certified that he is the only candidate currently responsible for maintaining a budget as mayor of Keene.

The inflation comes from increased government subsidies with pandemic relief programs, Burns said. The government should stop providing subsidized housing and energy costs, as well as canceling student debt.

“At the end of the day, it’s the printing of money that has to stop,” he said. “It has to stop now in all areas, it’s the only way to reign in this inflation problem.”

Williams agrees — inflation is caused by out-of-control federal spending, she said.

“The highest inflation rate in 40 years is killing my American dream, my children’s American dream,” she said. “People can’t afford anything.”

The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face Kuster, a Democrat who is running unopposed.

There is no clear favorite in the race, with an August Saint Anslem College poll finding 65 per cent of voters undecided. Among the others, Burns held a slight advantage at 12%, with Hansel and Williams trailing at 10 and 8%, respectively.

Edward N. Arrington