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Apr 4, 2016 2:06 PM

Steinhauser - First on NH1 News: Ashooh critical of Guinta over trust

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Rich Ashooh says when it comes to U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, “there’s a trust that was broken” with the voters.

Ashooh made his comment Monday in a sit down interview at the NH1 News studios, his first media interview since launching a primary challenge against the Republican congressman.

The Bedford businessman also listed the massive federal debt and his deep concerns about “the truly alarming situation” when it comes to the nation’s national security as two top motivations in running a second time for the House of Representatives in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.

Ashooh officially announced his candidacy Monday morning in an email and video to supporters. He was a top executive with BAE Systems and most recently served as interim executive director of the Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire Law School.

This is the second bid for the seat by Ashooh. He ran in 2010, narrowly losing to then former Manchester Mayor Guinta in a battle among three main candidates. Ashooh’s been mulling another run for the Congress for many months.

Even though once again Ashooh’s involved in a race with three major candidates - state Rep. Pam Tucker of Greenland launched her primary challenge against Guinta in February - Ashooh told NH1 News “this does not feel like a second version of the 2010 race.”

Guinta’s in a much weaker political position as he runs for re-election, as he tries to get past a campaign contribution controversy from last spring and summer, which precipitated calls from top Republicans such as U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte for Guinta to step down.

“Candidate Rich has absolutely nothing to say about other candidates,” Ashooh said.

But he added that “voter Rich Ashooh believes that lawbreakers shouldn’t be lawmakers. And that is his problem. And I’m not alone in feeling that there’s a trust that was broken. I could take it very seriously and personally because the misdeeds that occurred, occurred in my race in 2010. And I don’t do that because I’m here as candidate Rich.”

Watch: Guinta sits down with NH1 News

Talking about last year’s controversy, Guinta told NH1 News last week that “I suspect some of these candidates will bring that issue up.”

“If they want to continue to bring this up as an issue, that’s fine. I think what people really want to see is the policy objectives that I have been able to focus on, the leadership I have brought to this state,” Guinta added. “I think that that will play out and at the end of the day we’ll be successful.”

Why he’s running again

Ashooh said the national debt is one reason he’s decided to run again.

“The interest on the debt is the largest growing piece of the federal budget. That should be alarming to anybody paying attention to this.”

But he added that “the truly alarming situation is on the national security front. We have back slid as a nation, not only in our own standing in the world, but as a dependent ally.”

“As a nation our priority seems to be Cuba and a disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, there’s something very, very, wrong. And congressional elections are the way to tackle that,” he explained.

While he wouldn’t say whether he’d vote for the House Republican budget backed by Speaker Paul Ryan, which is facing opposition from conservatives, Ashooh shared that “I would be someone he (Ryan) could rely on to promote true conservatism in those budgets.:

When it comes to the state’s acute heroin and opioid epidemic, Ashooh said “this is a multi-front battle. It needs to occur on the law enforcement side. It needs to occur on the treatment side.”

“There is too much stigma, negative stigma, associated with people who are in trouble or on the verge of being in trouble and we tend to ignore them. Whereas there’s not enough negative stigma associated with casual use of drugs or over prescription of drugs. We need to fix that and that’s not going to be a federal law that fixes that. 26:30 That’s going to be all of us as a community coming together and working to enforce goals,” he continued.

Dan Innis ‘is a friend’

Ashooh’s entry into the race comes a week and a half after Portsmouth businessman and 2014 congressional candidate Dan Innis suddenly halted his bid for the seat. The departure of Innis from the race appeared to benefit Ashooh.

Asked if there’s been any communication with Innis, Ashooh said “absolutely, Dan is a friend.”

“I’ve always said you don’t need to serve in office to serve. So my encouragement to Dan is what’s next. How do you figure out how you want to solve problems you’ve wanted to solve. And that’s the nature of the conversation,” he added.

Ashooh, like every other Republican running for re-election or for office, faces the prospect of Donald Trump as his party’s presidential nominee, which many political analysts predict could be disastrous for GOP candidates in down ballot races.

Asked if he’d back Trump as Republican nominee, Ashooh said “you’re talking to somebody who is probably one of the most loyal Republicans. Look in the rear view mirror and I’ve supported every nominee. But I’ve never committed to them until they actually got to that point, and there’s a reason why. The reason is there’s a laundry list of things I care about more than being a country. I care about my country, my conservatism, my family, my faith. And anything could happen as we’ve seen in this very unpredictable environment to violate one of those principals well ahead of my Republicanism. So I’m going to be paying attention to what happens at the top of the ticket. But whatever happens we need a good Congress too and that’s why I’m running.”

Ashooh, who’s the father of five, said he’s family’s supportive of his run.

“There’s a little less mystery to it now. It was a little scarier before. And while there’s always some courage in putting your life on hold and doing this, they’re definitely with the program,” he said.

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