State House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff endorses Hillary Clinton at a news conference in Concord on Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 9:07 PM

First on NH1 News: Shurtleff backs Clinton, slams Trump over veterans issues

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – The top Democrat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives Tuesday endorsed Hillary Clinton.

NH1 News was first to report early Tuesday morning that state House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff would endorse Clinton, urge Granite State Democrats to unite behind her, and denounce presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Until now, the six-term state representative from Penacook had stayed neutral during the Democratic primary season.

While Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has won many of the most recent primary and caucus contests, the former secretary of state maintains a large lead over her rival in the race for delegates. Clinton’s expected to reach the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination next Tuesday June 7, on the last day of the primary calendar.

Speaking one-on-one with NH1 News following a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the Legislative Office Building in Concord, Shurtleff said “I stayed neutral because I thought we had two outstanding candidates.”

“I was very pleased with who we had for choices and I just stayed out of it,” he added.

But Shurtleff went on to say that “now that we're getting towards the convention it's time for Democrats to come together and be united and that’s why I came out in support for Secretary Clinton.”

Sanders beat Clinton by 22 percentage points in the first-in-the-nation primary.

Asked by NH1 News if he harbored concerns of Democratic disunity in the Granite State during the general election, Shurtleff said “I think that Democrats will come together as they always have. I think Democrats, we have far more to gain and too much to lose if we don’t.”

Shurtleff, a veteran who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, also called out Donald Trump for being a hypocrite on veterans issues.

Shurtleff told NH1 News that “as a Vietnam Veteran, I’m still troubled by his comments about Sen. McCain, a brother veteran of Vietnam and I thought those were completely uncalled for, especially coming from someone who got college deferments.”

“He ought to be ashamed,” Shurtleff added.

Shurtleff’s news conference was held just two hours after Trump, at a contentious news conference at Trump Tower in New York City, announced that he had raised $5.6 million at a fundraiser for veterans that he hosted in Iowa in January, on the same night and in the same city as a GOP primary debate that he skipped out on. Trump also lambasted the political press corps for repeatedly questioning him over accountability for the donations.

Shurtleff’s endorsement also came one after the nation marked Memorial Day and less than three weeks before the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s state convention.

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