Shaheen, Messner debate in Senate race in New Hampshire
By Holly Ramer
October 8, 2020
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Preexisting conditions, both medical and political, played a role Thursday in the first debate between Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican challenger Corky Messner.
Messner accused the incumbent of exaggerating how many New Hampshire residents have preexisting health conditions that would make it difficult for them to obtain insurance without the Affordable Care Act. Shaheen, meanwhile, suggested her challenger lacks an important preexisting condition — longtime residency in the state.
After the hourlong event hosted by the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council, Messner’s senior campaign adviser Mike Biundo called Shaheen “nothing more than a career politician full of empty promises and missed opportunity.”
Shaheen’s campaign manager, Harrell Kirstein, dismissed Messner as a “a self-interested carpetbagger.” Shaheen didn’t go that far, but alluded several times to his recent move to the state from Colorado.
When Messner said Shaheen shouldn’t brag about helping secure $1.25 billion in the first virus relief package because all states got at least that much. Shaheen said New Hampshire would have only gotten about half that if the money had been allocated in proportion to its population and none if Messner had been in Washington.
“I think New Hampshire needs someone who’s going to fight for them, who’s going to work across the aisle to get things done,” said Shaheen, a former governor seeking her third term in the Senate. “That is what I have done my entire career, and if Corky Messner had lived in New Hampshire, he would have a better understanding of that.”
Though he moved to New Hampshire only a few years ago, Messner has owned a vacation home here 2007. He said he first visited in the 1970s with a West Point classmate and vowed to return.
“I had a dream. I had a dream to come back to New Hampshire,” he said. “I’m one of the 60 percent of Granite Staters who moved here from another state, just like Jeanne Shaheen, and I will fight for you and you will be my first priority.”
Messner frequently praised President Donald Trump, who endorsed his candidacy during the primary, though he said he doesn’t believe the Supreme Court will side with the Trump administration and Republican-led states seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
The court will hear arguments in the case a week after the election. At stake is coverage for more than 20 million people, along with the law’s ban on insurance discrimination against Americans with pre-existing medical conditions.
Messner took issue with a recent Shaheen ad in which she accuses Republicans of wanting to “gut health care” for over half a million people in New Hampshire with such conditions.
“There may be 500,000 people that have a health condition for which they’re receiving medical attention but that doesn’t mean it’s a preexisting condition,” he said. “So that’s fear mongering.”
A 2019 analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that 233,000 nonelderly adults in New Hampshire had preexisting conditions that could make it difficult for them to obtain insurance in the individual market if the act were repealed. The Center for American Progress, however, puts the number at nearly 572,000.
Shaheen said creating a public option to allow people to buy into Medicaid and Medicare would be one of the fastest ways to expand coverage, but she also wants to address the cost of prescription drugs.
“If Corky Messner and the Republicans he supports in Washington had wanted to pass a new health care law, they could’ve done it after Donald Trump got elected when they controlled the House and Senate,” she said. “They don’t have a backup plan, so they didn’t do anything.”