Sandwich — April 20, 2009 — State senate candidates Bud Martin and Jeb Bradley traded shots on the economy, taxes and dirty politics in their only debate of the race dubbed the “only act in town.” In front of a big crowd at the Sandwich Central School Thursday, five days from the election, each teed off on each other party’s spending records.
At one point, Martin, a Sandwich Democrat, elicited boos as he said taxes, “per se are not a bad thing.” But he recovered, qualifying later, “I’m not saying taxes are good any more than saying taxes are bad.” He was back up and swinging at Bradley’s tax record, asserting the Wolfeboro Republican voted to hike the now controversial rooms and meals tax the last time he was in the state legislature, while repeatedly linking Bradley’s two terns as a U.S. Congressman to the disastrous policies of former president George Bush.
“Now my opponent has the audacity to come back to New Hampshire and say he knows how to run the government, when he ran us into the ground and he failed to regulate Wall Street and now we are in the tank,” Martin proclaimed. Bradley shot back, “There is a certain amount of audacity to blame me for a deficit that is ten times less than what your party had.”
The GOP claimed Martin again has revealed himself to be pro- taxes.
“Bud Martin’s ridiculous assertion that ‘taxes are not a bad thing’ shows just how out of touch he is with the priorities and concerns of District 3 voters,” said New Hampshire Republican Party Communications Director Ryan Williams Friday.
“He doesn’t understand that higher taxes have a devastating impact on working families who are already struggling to make ends meet.”
Democratic party executive director Mike Brunelle said Martin was the “clear winner.”
“After weeks of deceiving voters, Jeb Bradley finally admitted that his record is drastically different from his campaign rhetoric,” Brunelle said. “He defended his votes to increase taxes on property, rooms and meals, and businesses in the legislature, and also and stood by his support of George W. Bush’s failed economic policies while he was in Washington.”
During the debate, Bradley countered that the wave of Democrats that have swept the statehouse in recent years have flooded New Hampshire with new taxes, including a 17 percent overall hike last year.
“I will stand on the principle that we must get government spending under control,” Bradley said, vowing to take the state “back to our roots.”
“If we don’t get back to traditional services, cut spending where possible, we’ll have an income tax, we’ll a have sales tax,” he said.
Martin shot back, “Jeb, stop saying 17 percent, because you are misleading and you are trying to scare people. It’s time to come together.”
Both decried dirty tricks and campaign attack ads, and planned to hit the pavement over the weekend heading into Tuesday’s closely watched election.
It’s critical on many fronts, including because it could cement a Democratic super-majority in the Senate. Both candidates also say it’s a bell weather on the direction of the county and state, both of which have been in a dramatic state of political flux in recent elections.
Asked why so much attention and resources were being poured into the run, Martin’s answer was nearly word for word with Bradley’s.
“It’s the only act in town,” Martin told The Conway Daily Sun a day before the debate.
Martin, a retired Judge, has sought to position himself as a conservative Democrat who won’t back across-the-board cost-cutting. Bradley wants to send a harsh anti-tax message to Concord by slashing state spending by 13 percent.
During the debate, Martin chastised Bradley for posing the government as a pickpocket.
“Jeb’s last comment about government reaching into your pocket. That’s discouraging to hear, isn’t it?” Martin said. “This concept that there is a wild beast roaming the countryside ready to pick your pockets of your hard earned money is hogwash.”
Bradley spokesman Alicia Preston said Martin “criticized citizen opposition to taxes, defended the “Wild Beast” of government and denied the factually documented state spending increases that occurred over the past biennium.” Martin campaign manger Joe Elcock did not immediately return an email Friday.