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Jun 1, 2016 6:12 PM

Ayotte and Hassan battle over national security as the senator files for re-election

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte says thanks to her experience in Congress, she’s “in a better position” than her Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan, to deliver results for New Hampshire’s members of the armed services and veterans.

Hassan responded by saying she was “really appalled” that Ayotte would make such comments. The governor then tied Ayotte to the foreign policy proposals of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Ayotte made her comments Wednesday at the Secretary of State’s office in the State House, minutes after filing her candidacy for re-election to the U.S. Senate. She touted her ability to work with both Republicans and Democrats, saying “I have one of the most bipartisan records in the Senate and I’ve been able to work across the aisle to deliver results.”

And even though she’s spent six years on Capitol Hill, she sounded like an outsider, saying “I fight Washington. You want to send someone there who will fight for commonsense for New Hampshire and I’ve done that and I’ll continue to do that.”

Ayotte took aim at Hassan over taxes, saying “I certainly think she has a history of not only being heavily involved in the LLC (limited liability company) tax and supporting that, which was essentially an income tax on our small businesses, but other taxes and fees. Where I’ve been someone who’s been fighting actually to give our small businesses relief from taxes.”

And she touted her years of experience on the Senate Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, saying that when it comes to national security “I think there are significant differences not only between our understanding of those threats and what we need to do to address them but also I’m in a better position, I think, to deliver results for our men and women in uniform whether it’s at the Shipyard or whether it’s at Pease, and for our veterans.”

Hassan ties Ayotte to Trump

Hassan, answering a question from NH1 News a couple of hours later, fired back.

“I’ve been speaking up for the men and women in the New Hampshire National Guard and our veterans here in New Hampshire for my entire career, both in the state Senate and here as governor. I can continue to do that as a United States senator. What concerns me is that my opponent is supporting Donald Trump, who’s foreign policy and defense positions are dangerous and reckless and have been condemned by members of both political parties who have expertise in this field,” Hassan said.

“I am really appalled that my opponent would say that she has strength in this area when she is supporting somebody who’s foreign policy and defense positions are so uninformed and so reckless,” the governor added.

Before she filed, Ayotte held a rally with a couple of hundred supporters in the plaza outside the State House.

“Please join me in this fight. I’m really honored to have your support. We live in the greatest state in the greatest nation on earth,” she said.

She then walked into the building and through a noisy cauldron of supporters and protesters in the hallway outside the Secretary of State’s office. Demonstrators were holding signs tying Ayotte to Trump.

Ayotte’s been walking a fine line when it comes to Trump. She recently told NH1 News that she’d vote for Trump but not endorse him as her party’s presidential nominee.

“I think each person will make their own decision. I’ve said that I’m going to vote for our Republican nominee. But I don’t intend to endorse anyone in this race. I’m running for re-election and I’m really focusing on serving the people of New Hampshire and the work that I do for them,” Ayotte said on May 9.

Watch/Read: Ayotte tells NH1 News she won't endorse Trump

Asked on Wednesday if she would campaign with Trump in the Granite State during the general election, Ayotte answered “I’ll be running my own campaign and certainly getting out in New Hampshire. I don’t know what his schedule is and I don’t have any current plans.”

Rubens: Base has ‘totally abandoned’ Ayotte

As Ayotte faces off against Hassan in what’s shaping up as the country’s most high profile, expensive and negative Senate showdown, she also faces a longshot primary challenge from Jim Rubens. The former state senator and 2014 congressional candidate filed his declaration of candidacy minutes after Ayotte left the Secretary of State’s office.

Rubens said that as he’s campaigned across New Hampshire, he’s sensed that “there is intense, intense, frustration, complete abandonment of the incumbent by the Republican base in this state.”

“The base has completely and totally abandoned her,” he added.

Rubens emphasized that “we’ve got to welcome conservatives back into the party. We’ve got to welcome libertarians into this party, because there a lot of them in this state. We’ve got to welcome Trump voters into this party.”

While Ayotte is extremely well known in the Granite State, Rubens suffers when it comes to name recognition. Asked by NH1 News if he’ll soon put up campaign commercials on television, Rubens admitted that “I’ve got to be lot more frugal with my spending. So you won’t see me putting up ads talking to my son. I don’t have money for that.”

Earlier, asked by NH1 News if the primary challenge by Rubens was a distraction, Ayotte said “I take the candidates as they come and I’ll certainly be getting out to Republican voters too to talk about what I’ve worked on for New Hampshire. And I certainly plan to run a very vigorous race in both the primary and the general election.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte makes her way through a throng of supporters and protestors as she arrives at the Secretary of State's office in the State House to file her candidacy for re-election, on June 1, 2016

Sen. Kelly Ayotte files her candidacy for re-election at the Secretary of State's office in the State House on June 1, 2016

Sen. Kelly Ayotte holds a rally outside the State House before filing her candidacy for re-election, on June 1, 2016

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