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Jun 30, 2015 6:17 PM

Steinhauser: Ayotte highlights bipartisan record; pushes back against Democratic attacks

NH1 Political Director - NH1.com

MANCHESTER – Kelly Ayotte says she’s “one of the most bipartisan senators in the United States Senate.”

And the Republican senator from New Hampshire tells NH1 News that critical comments directed towards her by national and state Democratic committees and pro-Democratic third party groups are “just typical partisan attacks.”

In a one-on-one interview with NH1 News hours before kicking off her 2016 re-election campaign at a rally in Manchester, Ayotte also pushed back against speculation she could be a leading contender next year as the Republican vice presidential nominee, saying “I am 100 percent running for re-election for the United States Senate.”

One day before she launched her campaign, the pro-Democrat Senate Majority PAC went up with digital ads in the Granite State that said “Kelly Ayotte is a Washington insider who’s made clear she stands with Big Oil and Wall Street, not New Hampshire.”

And Tuesday morning the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee described her as a tool of “special interests” and said her decision to launch her campaign 16 months before the November 2016 election was a “stunning admission of fear.”

After a bruising primary in 2010, Ayotte easily won the general election over Democratic Paul Hodes during a GOP wave year. But Ayotte’s expected to face a much more challenging re-election during a presidential election cycle that draws a larger and more Democratic friendly electorate.

Touts bipartisanship

Tuesday morning Ayotte’s campaign released a web video in which she touted herself as a “commonsense” bipartisan leader in Congress. The senator continued that description in her interview with NH1 News, saying “I live in New Hampshire. I commute to Washington. I do town halls in our state. I listen to the people of New Hampshire and my record speaks for itself. I am one of the most bipartisan senators in the United States Senate by independent groups that have looked at this issue and looked at my voting record.”

Ayotte’s re-election kickoff comes just a couple of days after the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. Asked whether the health care law, better known as Obamacare, is here to stay, Ayotte said “I think there are many reforms that need to be made to this law.”

“Making sure that we have more choice for people in New Hampshire so that they can have affordable health care instead of, you know you look at Obamacare and sort of all of it’s dictated from Washington and having more local choice and competition for people in this state. I think there is more work to be done on this law,” she added.

Will Hassan challenge Ayotte?

One of the biggest questions surrounding her re-election bid is whether Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan will challenge Ayotte instead of running for re-election next year. Hassan’s said she’ll decide after the two-year state budget is completed. That could now be as late as December, thanks to a stalemate between the governor and the Republicans who control the State House. Asked if Hassan needs to announce her intentions sooner rather than later, Ayotte said “that’s really her decision. My focus is on what I can do every day to work as hard as I can and fight for the people of this state.”

Besides speculation of Ayotte as the GOP running mate, there’s talk that if the Republicans win the White House, Ayotte could be tapped for the cabinet, possibly as attorney general. Ayotte served as state attorney general before winning her Senate seat.

But Ayotte pushed back on such speculation, saying “I think if a Republican was elected president, they are going to need me in the Senate.”

Ayotte said “getting our fiscal house in order” was her top priority, along with “cutting through red tape for our business’s so we can create more jobs here,” and “fighting for our veterans and making sure our country remains safe.”

Ayotte’s done scores of town halls during her years in the Senate, and says “I am going to continue to do town halls. That’s something that I think is very important is to be accessible to people of New Hampshire. It’s part of our great tradition, and that’s why I keep doing them, and I will keep doing them.”

And she said that her good friend Sen. John McCain, a two time winner of the New Hampshire GOP presidential primary, may join her on the campaign trail.

“You know John is up for re-election, but he does love the traditional New Hampshire town hall so I would be surprised if we couldn’t keep him away,” and you know I did my first town hall with him when I was running for office the first time.”

NH1 News was also first to report on Tuesday that Ayotte will march Saturday in the Amherst and Merrimack July 4th parades.

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