First Congressional District GOP Debate

By James Beaudry '22 | September 4, 2020 | September 7, 2020

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Manchester, NH - Two Republicans running in the primary to challenge freshman incumbent Chris Pappas faced off in a debate on Wednesday. The format was slightly different than the average debate, with moderators Adam Sexton, Monica Hernandez, and John Distaso situated at WMUR headquarters in Manchester and the candidates Matt Mayberry and Matt Mowers positioned in separate rooms at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

Concerns about COVID-19 took top billing at the debate where both candidates laid out their plans to protect Granite Staters. Mr. Mowers emphasized that his experience within the Department of State shows that he is qualified to help Congress handle the COVID-19 pandemic. He also stressed the importance of bringing in the private sector by investing in new therapeutics and safety equipment that can be manufactured in the United States. Mr. Mayberry pointed out his work within the community has helped New Hampshire stay safe during the pandemic. Both candidates were opposed to a federal mask mandate. School reopening plans were also discussed, with both candidates supporting giving federal dollars to private and religious institutions as well as school choice. When asked about a potential COVID-19 vaccine, both candidates stressed that getting vaccinated should be up to the individual.

Civil unrest after the killing of George Floyd was another top issue, with Mr. Mowers stating that he does believe there are “racist individuals”, but he does not believe that there is systemic racism in the United States. Mr. Mayberry also said that there is no systemic racism in the United States, but acknowledged that, “there are forms of discrimination here in New Hampshire”, such as ageism, sexism, and religious discrimination. Mr. Mowers expressed his support for increasing the amount of resources that the federal government gives to local law enforcement agencies, citing the increasing number of roles that officers are expected to perform.

One position in which both candidates differed was their stances on abortion. Mr. Mayberry has in the past described himself as a pro-choice candidate albeit with certain restrictions such as parental notifications and a waiting period for those seeking an abortion, as well as restricting federal funding to Planned Parenthood. Mr. Mowers considers himself pro-life with exceptions in the cases of rape and incest. He also stated that “Mr. Mayberry believes in abortion”, which prompted a tense back-and-forth in which Mr. Mowers criticized Mr. Mayberry for allegedly changing his stance before the primary. Mr. Mayberry then said that he would be “a pro-life vote in Congress”, to which Mr. Mowers replied, “Welcome to the team, Matt.” 

On the prospect of potentially reviving New Hampshire’s Seabrook nuclear plant, Mr. Mayberry said that “we should open all options when it comes to nuclear power” and that he supports finishing the construction of the plant. Mr. Mowers also supports construction of the nuclear plant. Both candidates also expressed support for the construction of a Southern Border wall as a way to combat the opioid crisis by cutting off the supply of drugs into the United States. Mr. Mayberry added that he supports extending the wall fifteen feet into the ground in order to prevent tunneling.

WMUR in partnership with the New Hampshire Institute of Politics also hosted a debate with GOP candidates vying for incumbent Democrat Annie Kuster’s seat in New Hampshire’s second congressional district. While the process may look different this time around, election season is in full-swing in New Hampshire and in the Institute of Politics.