If you believe everything U.S. Rep. Charles Bass and Democratic challenger Ann McLane Kuster are saying about each other these days, you would be hard-pressed to vote for either of them.
Kuster says Bass is a career politician – and a corrupt one at that – who doesn’t care a whit about the middle class or the nation’s elderly. In fact, according to a Kuster ad that features a picture of a large-mouth bass, the seven-term congressman is only “out for himself – not for you.”
Bass says Kuster is a “liberal activist” who wouldn’t hesitate to raise taxes on small businesses, if elected, and has been a consistent supporter of an income tax for New Hampshire. And with the help of a dancing Kuster look-alike, he sponsored an ad that concludes his Democratic opponent is “so far left, she’ll never be right for us.”
Frankly, we don’t believe either of the candidates. We have no doubt both genuinely care about New Hampshire and that both are more than qualified to represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District in Washington.
On Sunday, we made it clear that a candidate’s proven ability or willingness to work with members of the opposing party – and to buck his or her party leadership when appropriate – would be a major factor in determining which candidates our editorial board would endorse this year.
That’s why we’re endorsing Bass. While we believe Kuster could bring a bipartisan approach to Congress, the seven-term congressman from Peterborough already has – most recently as one of the few House members to support an alternative budget based on the findings of the president’s Simpson-Bowles commission.
Bass was one of only 38 House members – 16 Republicans and 22 Democrats – to vote in favor of the deficit-reduction proposal last spring, earning him a rare endorsement by the commission’s namesakes and the 2012 Paul E. Tsongas Economic Patriot Award from the Concord Coalition for his bipartisan fiscal leadership.
While we don’t agree with him on every issue – immediate repeal of the nation’s health care reform law and his support for the budget plan crafted by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan among them – the centrist Republican is no stranger to breaking with his party on any number of high-profile issues.
As we pointed out after meeting with Bass this past spring:
• He has been a consistent supporter of abortion rights and federal funding for Planned Parenthood, one of only seven House Republicans to vote against defunding the organization last year.
• He has been a longtime opponent of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Earlier this year, he was one of a half-dozen Republicans who signed a letter to party leaders, urging them not to open the refuge to fund a pending transportation bill.
• And he is a strong supporter of federal funding for high-speed rail, a position he reiterated during his Oct. 25 meeting with our editorial board. He also has been critical of the Executive Council’s decision to reject federal grant money to study the feasibility of commuter rail between Boston to Concord.
In all, Bass voted with his party 82.8 percent of the time this session, according to data compiled by OpenCongress (www.open congress.org), good for the seventh-lowest score among the House’s 240 Republicans.
Given the hyperpartisanship that brought an unpopular Congress to its knees these past two years, that’s not a record New Hampshire voters should dismiss lightly.