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NECN debate: As race tightens, no clear winner seen

By Max Sullivan, Contributing Writer

CONCORD — Tuesday night’s debate in Concord between the incumbent U.S. senator and her competitor was decidedly close, said sources such as WMUR.

But for some who watched the debate live at Concord’s Capitol Center for the Arts, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen walked away with an edge thanks to her direct approach to the issue of women’s reproductive rights. When the issue was addressed, she looked directly into the camera and said that she trusts women “to make their own reproductive decisions.”

In response to that question, Brown said women are “Obviously concerned about those issues [concerning women’s reproductive rights], but they’re also concerned about jobs; they’re also concerned about their ability to bring their kids to school; they’re also concerned about our border security; they’re not just one issue people, and so we’re taking our message to women voters on a whole host of issues.”

To that, Jennifer Frizzell, vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and who was in the audience Tuesday night, said she felt Brown’s message was misleading to women voters.

“I have been very concerned about the deception I think that Scott Brown has put forward about calling himself or identifying himself with the pro-choice label,” Frizzell said. “When Sen. Shaheen talked about the fact that she trusts women all the time, not some of the time as Scott Brown has decided … it really spoke to a core issue that motivates me personally and motivates me professionally.”

Not all who were present gave Shaheen the nod on the women’s reproductive rights issue. Katie Schmelzer, 22 of Concord, said she understood the difficulty of sharing a stance on a complicated issue like abortion in just a couple minutes like Brown was expected to.

“Nobody’s pro-abortion,” Schmelzer said. “I think that there’s a lot that goes into it in a debate like this where they only have a certain amount of time to answer. I think that I would believe Scott Brown in that he is pro-choice, but there are parts of that that topic that you can’t really get into that time restraint; it gets a little gray area.”

But secondary to women’s reproductive rights, attendees also thought that Shaheen exposed Brown for his desire to take New Hampshire as “consolation prize” after losing Massachusetts in 2012 to Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

At one point, the incumbent pointed out that Brown visited Iowa in 2013 to find out if a bid for the presidency was possible, as well as poking around for a bid as Massachusetts governor.

Brown has been attacked for claiming residency in New Hampshire, despite having been born in the Granite State.

Andrea Bard, 50, a professor of communications at Southern New Hampshire University, said she believed the point was driven home – that Brown is in it to hold an office, period, and not just for the state of New Hampshire.

“He’s just more nationally-oriented,” Nard said. “He talks about more nationally-oriented things. I think [Shaheen] made a very good point about the fact that he tried to run for several offices in Massachusetts, and when he couldn’t he went to New Hampshire so he could run; he’s definitely going for something bigger by his stance.

“I don’t know,” she continued, “if the rest of the voters will understand that, but I think that probably Shaheen is better for New Hampshire because she’s really for here when I don’t think he is.”

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