Negron Takes On Kuster

  • Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., is interviewed at the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., on Jan. 24, 2018. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Steve Negron

For the Valley News
Saturday, September 22, 2018

Concord — As soon as the New Hampshire primary was over, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., said she wanted a clean fight, then she came out swinging.

The day after the Sept. 11 primary, she invited her Second Congressional District challenger, state Rep. Steve Negron, R-Nashua, “to commit to a civil debate, focused on the issues and avoiding the name calling and nasty divisive rhetoric that threatens public engagement in our democracy.”

This week, though, she sent out two fundraising emails to supporters swiping at Negron as “being a rubber stamp” for President Donald Trump. She tried to link him with Trump boogeymen like Steve Bannon, Corey Lewandowski and Betsy DeVos, who have visited New Hampshire to boost GOP candidates.

Negron — an Air Force veteran and Nashua businessman who has served one term in the Legislature — narrowly captured the GOP nomination in a crowded primary last week. During the weeks leading up to the primary, Negron and his rivals praised Trump for his leadership of the country.

While he stands by Trump, he’s pushed back on Kuster’s characterization.

“The people from New Hampshire are the ones that I work for and they’re the ones that put me in office, so, no, I won’t be a rubber stamp for Trump,” he said on Thursday. “If there’s something that’s not in the best interest for New Hampshire, I’ll step up and be the squeaky wheel.”

He has no disagreements with the president either.

“You look at the tax package, the omnibus bill that he signed. He helped out a lot of people,” Negron said. “I like what he did in getting North Korea to the table. I like the fact that he stepped out of the Iran deal. He’s just trying to make things level set again. ... I think what he’s doing right now is in the best interests of this country and that’s why I stand behind him 100 percent.”

Kuster, a three-term incumbent from Hopkinton whose district includes the Upper Valley, is highlighting her record and bipartisan chops in the U.S. House of Representatives as she runs for re-election, but she’s also distancing herself from the White House.

“That whole primary was really rushing to the far, far right in terms of wrapping themselves around the White House,” Kuster said of Republicans. “This race isn’t about that, but I expect if they keep bringing that up, the voters will have something to say and will have a strong message to send on Nov. 6.”

In the fundraising email, her campaign highlighted a quote from Negron saying “every single one of the president’s policies have been zero-on.”

The Kuster email also spotlighted that “it’s the duty of Congress to put a check on the president’s policies when they would harm our nation” and charged that “if people like Steve Negron win in November, that won’t happen.”

Kuster’s lumping of Negron with Trump’s volatile presidency could help her with the large pool of independent or undeclared voters in New Hampshire.

“Given Trump’s persistent unpopularity, I think linking Negron to Trump — which Negron himself has done — will help Kuster with independent voters who have soured on Trump or have always been skeptical of him,” Saint Anselm College politics professor Christopher Galdieri said.

When Negron launched his campaign a year ago, he gave a lukewarm response when asked about Trump.

“I may not necessarily always agree with what the president is saying, but he, to this point, is my president,” Negron told the Concord Monitor in October.

“I didn’t always agree with the previous presidents, but at the end of the day the people spoke,” he added. “That’s the individual who holds the Oval Office. And we may disagree with them and there’s ways to vocalize your disagreement, but I think we have to be able to try and move some things forward that he’s trying to do for the country,” he added.

But this summer, during the heat of the primary battle, Negron’s praise for Trump grew.

“The president is doing some great things,” Negron said during a primary debate last month. “I believe the president is doing those things that are important to us. He’s looking at the trade deals and I think those are the things that are going to bring the economy back and make us strong.”

It’s no surprise that a midterm election would be framed around Trump even though the president’s not on the ballot this November.

“Midterm elections are always about who’s in the White House. That makes Trump inescapable,” Galdieri said.

“Negron won his nomination in part by going all-in on Trump and Kuster took part in the Women’s March in D.C. the day after Trump’s inauguration,” Galdieri added. “Voters are going to make decisions based on how they feel about Trump, much more than they’re going to make decisions based on their feelings about Kuster and Negron.”

Paul Steinhauser can be reached at psteinhauser@nh1.com.