MANCHESTER, N.H. — The crowded field of Democratic congressional hopefuls in New Hampshire’s 1st District took turns targeting the perceived front-runners at their latest forum Thursday night.

With 12 days until the primary, the 11 Democrats competing for their party’s nomination met at Manchester Community College. Along with six Republicans, they’re hoping to take the seat being left open by Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who isn’t seeking re-election.

From their opening statements, many of the Democrats criticized Executive Councilor Chris Pappas and Marine veteran Maura Sullivan, accusing them of not being progressive enough on health care and suggesting the money they’ve raised will make them beholden to special interests.

They’re not grassroots, they’re Astroturf,” said state Rep. Mindi Messmer. “New Hampshire citizens are my special interests.”

Answering a question about how to reduce the influence of money on politics, Portsmouth businessman Deaglan McEachern said voters could start by rejecting Sullivan, a newcomer to the state whom he accused of shopping around for a district in which to run.

“You guys have power to get money out of politics by not voting for her,” he said.


Sullivan emphasized that she isn’t taking money from corporate political action committees, and while she didn’t directly address the district shopping charge, said some people have told her it isn’t her time to run.

“I think women around the country are really, really tired of being told to wait their turn,” she said.

MacEachern said it was unlikely anyone told Sullivan she shouldn’t run because she’s a woman, given that the state is currently represented by the nation’s first all-female, all-Democratic congressional delegation. He and others also blasted Pappas and Sullivan for not supporting universal health care in the form of a Medicare for all system.

Pappas said he believes health care should be a right, not a privilege, and that he supports universal health care as an ultimate goal. But he said his focus will be fighting the efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act and allowing businesses to buy into Medicare.

“I won’t be satisfied until everyone has access to affordable care,” he said.

Levi Sanders, son of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, scoffed at the notion of “access.”

“It’s like you have access to a billion dollars but you can’t get it,” he said. “This is really kind of embarrassing.”

Pappas defended himself against the campaign finance criticism by saying he was proud that most of his money has come from within the state, and by taking a swipe at Sullivan, saying she has all but declared herself the nominee based on out-of-state fundraising.

“At the end of the day, if our elections are settled by who has the biggest pot of money, then our democracy and the middle class are toast,” he said.

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