New Hampshire is going to be on the Republican Party’s radar in 2020.
In a state where President Trump narrowly lost to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by fewer than 3,000 votes (or 2.3 percent), Republicans are hoping to “flip” this seat, currently held by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, back to red.
Although the state legislature made a leftward shift in 2018, the governor’s mansion is occupied by Governor Chris Sununu (R-NH)—one of the few conservative-leaning New England Republicans to govern up that way in recent memory. Other Republicans like Governors Charlie Baker (R-MA) and Phil Scott (R-VT) are more progressive in their governing style.
More interestingly, New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate seat previously held by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) flipped from red to blue by a mere 1,017 votes (or 0.1%) in 2016. In 2014, Senator Jeanne Shaheen narrowly defeated former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, a Republican and current U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, by a 51.5% TO 48.2% margin during her first bid for re-election.
Republicans believe there is an opportunity to recapture the interest of voters in this New England libertarian enclave.
How does the challenge to Senator Shaheen currently stand? Several Republicans have declared their intention to run in the 2020 primary.
On June 24, 2019, Retired Brigadier General Don Bolduc became the first candidate to declare his intention to run as a Republican. As of this writing, there are three more Republican candidates: attorney Bryant ‘Corky’ Messner, perennial candidate and conspiracy theorist Andy Martin, and former Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, Bill O’Brien, who received Senator Ted Cruz’s endorsement back in September.
Observers expect Corey Lewandowski, President Trump’s controversial former campaign manager, to jump in since he created an exploratory website. As of this running, he isn’t. A formal declaration by him could come any day now, if he’s serious about running.
That prospect has left many Granite State voters who are Republican and generally supportive of President Trump’s agenda worried. Some have said his entry could hurt the party’s chances of being competitive against Shaheen, given his brash style and past flippant remarks.
While Senator Shaheen could be one of the few vulnerable incumbent Democrats running this cycle, her incumbency advantage could make her a formidable challenger. Per OpenSecrets, she has risen well over $7 million in campaign funds to date. Messner’s campaign has risen $1,229,848 (much of which he loaned himself), while Bolduc’s campaign has risen nearly a quarter million dollars.
One of Shaheen’s likely challengers, Don Bolduc, believes he is best equipped to meet her head-on in a general contest.
Mr. Bolduc recently spoke with The Resurgent about his candidacy and where he stands on issues. Here’s what he had to say:
Who is Don Bolduc?
Mr. Bolduc’s background and experience, he tells me, can help him stand out from the pack of announced Republican candidates.
He calls himself “pure New Hampshire” having been born and raised in the state.
He told me he learned his work ethic on his grandfather’s farm and was required to serve in the military in some capacity—a requirement for all Bolduc men. He said it was his grandfather’s wish that the Bolduc family developed “good citizens and productive citizens.”
“I was raised in a very regimented home…a Catholic regimented home. A lot of discipline,” he said.
In his senior year of high school, Bolduc served as a police officer. 11 days after graduating from high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Joining the military and rising from private to Brigadier General, Bolduc said, “was an example of the American dream.”
The 57-year-old husband, father, and grandfather experienced a lot during his 36-year career in the U.S. Army, where he received two awards for valor, five Bronze Star medals, and two Purple Hearts. His military assignments as Commander, Combined Joint Special Operations Component Commander in Afghanistan, as Deputy Director for US Africa Command (USAFRICOM) and as Special Operations Command-Africa (COMSOCAFRICA) speak for themselves. He also survived a bomb blast, a helicopter crash, and several fire fights.
Most notably, Bolduc was one of 12 horse back-riding Species Forces members, or “horse soldiers,” who fought the Taliban in Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Bolduc and other “horse soldiers” were recently portrayed in the blockbuster film 12 Strong.
Fellow soldiers and military veterans have affectionately referred to him as “Captain America” and “Everyone’s General.”
Bolduc told me his campaign will focus on several key issues: the economy, national security and national defense, healthcare, and Veterans Affairs.
With respect to economic policies, he said he would support President Trump’s policies promoting job creation and would focus on advancing policies that bring jobs to New Hampshire—particularly technology and vocational jobs. Limited government and free market policies, he told me, will facilitate an environment that keeps NH residents in the state by contributing to the “health and welfare and growth” of the state.
Bolduc said national security and national defense should be regarded as two separate issues. The former is “everything we do to defend our nation” as enumerated by the Constitution, while the latter supports and “promote(s) the health of welfare” of Americans on issues like border security, strengthening communities, addressing the drug/opioid crisis, and education.
Wherever he goes his service dog, Victor, is always in tow.
Bolduc is 100% disabled, having sustained wounds from his time in service. Victor, a Black German Shepherd, helps him cope with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A critical problem relating to veteran’s issues is keeping staffers accountable and retaining adept medical staff who’d better support those in need of ample and immediate attention.
Focusing on policies that prioritize investing in V.A. medical staff, he said, will allow servicemen and women to address the wounds, hidden or not, better.
“The people that work in these [veterans] hospitals, with a few exceptions, are dedicated professionals wanting to do the right thing but are encumbered by a bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.,” said Bolduc.
He added if there is a shortage of money or equipment, the inability to hire good talent, and non-competitive jobs in V.A. hospitals, this leads doctors and nurses to flee to the private sector.
He noted the agency needs to employ better communications across the various departments that handle veterans issues. Bolduc said allowing records to be transferred, through fostering more interpersonal connections between the Department of Defense to Veterans Affairs, is a prime example of reform.
The Ret. Brigadier General, who drives about 40 miles to be serviced by a V.A. hospital himself, is confident his firsthand experience can offer unparalleled insight.
He added, “Jeanne Shaheen has promised twice…that she would get our veterans a full-service medical center. That has not been done.”
Bolduc said “veterans want a full-service medical center” and they also want “the opportunity to make their choices that they can go to private medical hospital if they choose to.”
The candidate has already heard from many of his fellow veterans while on the campaign trail. There are over 100,000 veterans who make up the 1.36 million people (as of 2018) people residing in the Granite State.
On ‘Weapons of War’ and Guns
I pressed General Bolduc on firearms, his view on the Second Amendment, and if the pejorative “weapons of war” term accurately describes semi-automatic firearms like AR-15 rifles.
A man of his stature surely knows his way around them and has spent much time around them, so who better to ask?
For context, the Granite State has a 2.02% violent crime rate—a rate well below the national average. In 2018, the state was named the third safest state in the Union after Vermont and Maine—neighboring states that also boast gun-friendly laws.
In 2018, New Hampshire ranked 17 of 50 on the best state for gun ownership. Residents can conceal or open carry without a permit, making it one of the friendliest states for law-abiding gun owners. It is a shall-issue, constitutional carry state where two percent of the state’s population has carry permits.
“New Hampshire is one of the safest states in the nation, and we have a long and proud tradition of responsible firearm stewardship,” Sununu said in a veto message. “Our laws are well-crafted and fit our culture of responsible gun ownership and individual freedom.”
To Bolduc, Senator Shaheen’s radical, anti-gun views fall far outside of the mainstream in N.H.
Violence in communities involving weapons, guns or not, is due to law enforcement not being “empowered to be proactive against these issues with violence” as it relates to domestic violence, terrorists, or criminals, he said.
Perpetrators of recent mass shootings, Bolduc added, were already on law enforcement’s radar.
“I’ve seen a lot of violence in my lifetime in the military in other places in the world.”
Bolduc said “people” are the issue— not firearms. He learned this early on in his military career.
“36 years in military service I never punished a weapon,” he said. “We always held the person accountable for using the weapon improperly. That is the issue. It’s not the weapon.”
He said there was no “need to change the Second Amendment” or “add” laws or legislate our way out of the problem of mass shootings.
“I will fight hard to preserve the rights of gun owners,” he added. “We mischaracterize assault weapons…for political gain and sensationalism.”
Bolduc noted many Democrats and anti-gun politicians who’ve never seen combat repeat the “weapons of war” moniker to stifle debate on firearms and true gun safety.
“These weapons that everyone characterizes as ‘weapons of war’ is just mischaracterization and sensationalism and politicizing of a type of weapon that people use for a variety of recreational gun uses at sport clubs, hunting, and so forth.”
He said he would be happy to show Democrats “real” weapons of war.
‘I’m a Constitutional Conservative’
When I asked General Bolduc about his political philosophy, he called himself as “a constitutional conservative.”
He said the Constitution guides everything he does and serves as a roadmap for his thought processes.
If elected, he wants to “maximize individual freedoms and not to trample on them.”
“The government at the national level has grown too big,” said Bolduc. “And we are seeing the inefficiencies of bureaucracy get in the way of our communities being effective.”
“We need to get back to what the Constitution says about branches of our government and how our government is supposed to be structured so that it is efficient, it is effective, and it is small so that it does its job for the American people.”
He cautioned against Democrat efforts to change the Constitution, saying “this assault on the Constitution about it being, should be a living document, something that isn’t a principled-based document is dangerous.”
He also said reshaping and eliminating the Electoral College falls in line with that—an effort, he said, Jeanne Shaheen supports.
He intends to talk and meet everyone by getting “coffee-breath close” and interacting with as many voters as possible.
He also said he supports terms limits and would only serve two terms.
If Bolduc wins the primary and goes onto win the general election, Senate Democrats would certainly have a field day.
Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently wrote a fundraising letter on behalf of incumbent Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) suggesting Bolduc is “a retired military general who would fit right in with the authoritarian culture that’s taking root in Washington.”
The candidate believes if the Senate Minority Leader fears his campaign, then it is a good thing.
The National Debt Concerns Him
A subject Bolduc would like to sound the alarm on, if elected, is both the deficit and the national debt.
As of February 2019, the former was $22 trillion and counting. (As of this writing, it’s almost $23 trillion.) The deficit for fiscal year 2020 is projected to be $1.10 trillion, because the government spent $4.75 trillion compared to $3.65 trillion in revenue it raked in.
“Our deficit is not only an embarrassment and a clear indication that Congress has not been doing its job for many years, it’s a national security issue,” he said.
Government spending is problematic, he added, particularly “wasteful, government spending” and “bureaucracy.” He also said Congress has a problem with “adding to our bureaucracy, adding departments, and sections.” He suggested omnibus bills are “nutty ideas” that “lead to crazy spending and irresponsible spending.”
Bolduc also suggested shutting down government is “malfeasance” and called the recently-passed budget “irresponsible.”
An Improved Republican Message on Right-to-Life
In 2012, Republican senatorial candidates got attacked —and deservedly so—for their messaging missteps on the right-to-life issue.
Candidates like Bolduc appear to have learned from this. He doesn’t want to get entrapped by the “war on women” rhetoric that befell many before him.
For Bolduc, a devout Catholic, today’s Democrats are way too extreme on the abortion issue.
He told me abortion doesn’t just hurt one person (a baby in utero); it also hurts women.
Bolduc believes women aren’t given the right choices when faced with unplanned pregnancies.
He said a woman in a crisis pregnancy “should not feel trapped, alone, or lost” and that we need to “do better as a society in offering women a better choice— that better choice is life. We need to help them do that.”
Bolduc, a father of three grown young men, believes women in unplanned pregnancies are increasingly faced with challenges and isolation by men who abandon them—a situation which he called “unforgivable.”
He explained, “You have a responsibility when you create a life, we need to own up to that as men. Offer them a choice for life.”
“Life is precious from the moment of conception till the end of life, however long that is.”
Republican voters in New Hampshire will have an important decision to make in 2020 when selecting a viable, principled candidate to challenge Senator Shaheen on Election Day.
General Bolduc and his campaign are optimistic they can unify Trump supporters, conservatives, lapsed Republicans, libertarians, independents, and centrist Democrats.
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