Oct 21, 2014 7:48 AM

NH1 Debate Preview: It's a 3-peat, Carol Shea-Porter vs. Frank Guinta


Voters in the First Congressional District by now should have a pretty good idea of how they feel about the candidates.

After all, the two main combatants are facing each other for the third time, each one hoping to break the tie of what has been a spirited, sometimes bitter battle.
One or the other has been on the ballot in the last four elections.

Congresswoman Carol-Shea Porter is seeking her fourth term for the seat she first won by unseating Republican incumbent Jeb Bradley in 2006.

Former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta ``retired'' Shea-Porter in 2010, a mid-term election in which Republicans swept offices throughout the ballot but for Democratic Gov. John Lynch who hung on to win a third term.

Two years later, Shea-Porter returned the favor, beating Guinta in a presidential election year when big wins for President Obama and Gov. Maggie Hassan contributed to Shea-Porter's victory.

Now we have the third contest between the two and it's borne some resemblance to the past two campaigns.

Guinta has cast Shea-Porter as a big-spending liberal who voted for the Affordable Care Act which forced thousands of citizens with individual health coverage to lose access to their local hospital and hospital-owned physician.

Shea-Porter, a 51-year-old resident of Rochester, said Guinta as a congressman voted for the so-called Ryan budget that passed the House and would have significantly cut spending in existing programs and forced changes to entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.

She also has gone after Guinta on social issues due to Guinta's opposition to legal abortions and same-sex marriage.

A native of New York, Shea-Porter is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and lived in several states before moving to the state as her husband was stationed in the military.

She worked as a social worker and community college instructor before her career in elective politics.

Shea-Porter burst on the political scene with little experience in campaigns but as a volunteer. She defeated a heavly-favored, House Minority Leader Jim Craig of Manchester by building a network of supporters many who were drawn to her by her strong views against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Guinta, 44, grew up in Edison, NJ and graduated from Assumption College, later getting a Master's degree in intellectual property from the Franklin Pierce School of Law.

His business career started in the insurance business in the Boston area and his first political experience was winning a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives that he won in 2004. He served there for two terms along with four years on the Manchester Board of Aldermen.

Guinta resigned his city seat to become chief of staff to then-Congressman Bradley. A year later, he left that job to run for mayor of the city against a three-term incumbent, Democrat Bob Baines.

Like Shea-Porter, Guinta was considered a heavy underdog in his first big race and unseated Baines vowing to keep local taxes low, improve public schools and reduce crime.

Guinta's record as mayor on those fronts was mixed; he did push through city-backed bonds that made significant upgrades for two city high schools. He managed the city's budget to very small tax increases in part because he had to as Manchester has a stringent tax cap. Crime in the city did not go down significantly during Guinta's tenure but he was responsible with adding 22 police officers to the force and opening three substations.

In this race, Guinta has tried to cast himself in more of a bipartisan light pointing out that he worked with Democratic members on the local board. In 2010 he beat Shea-Porter by embracing the Tea Party label and vowing to cut federal spending and support limited government.

For example, Guinta has actually backed additional spending in this race, specifically for federal grants that support mental health care. Guinta said he's seen the community treatment programs need support firsthand as a nephew suffers from impairments.

While in office one of the things that contributed to Guinta's defeat two years ago was his support for raising the federal debt ceiling. Shea-Porter supported that move but the Libertarian Party opponent, Brendan Kelly, campaigned heavily against it. The 5 percent of the vote for Kelly was more than Shea-Porter's margin of victory.

Once Guinta lost in 2010, he opposed the federal sequester budget cuts mainly out of concern for employment at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Shea-Porter has a liberal voting record but not always toed the party line especially on foreign policy matters. She opposed the resolution to arm the Syrian rebels that President Obama sought this summer out of concern the strategy could draw the US into a protracted ground war.

She did support Obama's economic initiatives to spur the economy including the bailout of the automobile industry along with the so-called "Cash for Clunkers'' program.

The two disagree on the Keystone Pipeline, Shea-Porter voting against it, Guinta for it.

Shea-Porter did support the cap and trade program that would force polluters to improve their emissios or pay a carbon tax to the federal government; Guinta said it would be destructive to the economy and pass on higher utility bils to consumers.

Immigration is another issue that splits the pair, Guinta has opposed reform that given illegal aliens a path to citizenship while Shea-Porter philosophically has favored it. Shea-Porter opposed a House-passed bill in August to spend more money on border security.

The Democratic Congressional Committee has tried to revive a 2010 controversy that faced Guinta, questions about where he got the money to loan himself $245,000 to win the seat. Guinta said the money came from his personal savings but declined to release his bank records to prove it. The House ethics panel reviewed his personal financial disclosure statements and found them in "substantial compliance'' with the law.

A left-of-center special interest group dubbed Guinta in 2012 one of the Ten Most Corrupt members of Congress.

Shea-Porter has been heavily criticized for her refusal to host open-ended town hall meetings with voters. This is likely because that in 2011 she had been the target of conservatives who infiltrated meetings she ran and badgered her with questions about her support for Obamacare.

Polls have shown this race to be a close one throughout and Roll Call has called Shea-Porter one of the Ten Most Vulnerable members of the U.S. House.


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