Former governor and first term Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Republican challenger Don Bolduc took aim at each other over inflation, abortion, national security, the border crisis, election denialism, and many more issues in their third and final debate in their crucial battleground state race that’s among a handful across the country that will likely determine if the GOP wins back the Senate majority.
But ahead of the verbal crossfire on the debate stage, Bolduc – a former Army general who served ten tours of duty in the war in Afghanistan – was nearly assaulted as he arrived at the debate site at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics on Wednesday evening.
According to the Bolduc campaign, a bystander standing in the crowd outside the debate site took a swing at the former general as he arrived. The campaign says Bolduc was slightly grazed but not injured.
Rick Wiley of the Bolduc campaign tells Fox News the person who threw the punch at the former general appeared to be a Libertarian activist.
Hassan’s campaign communications director Kevin Donohoe tweeted about the incident, writing: “Disgusting behavior. We saw this same libertarian party activist get aggressive with our campaign volunteers at this debate and the last.”
Bolduc referenced the altercation near the end of the debate, when he and Hassan discussed the brutal attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband at their San Francisco home.
The GOP Senate nominee said “it’s a sign of political problems. Republicans and Democrat, that fuel issues with people that get them to the point where they are just so upset at an individual that they strike out at them. Happened to me outside just before I came in. Right. This is wrong and it needs to be stopped.”
Bolduc campaign spokesperson Kate Constantini told Fox News in a statement that “as the General said on stage tonight, it’s time to lower the temperature of the political discourse in this country. Prior to the debate, an individual in the crowd gathered outside attempted to punch the General and was quickly apprehended and arrested. We are grateful to the quick response from law enforcement on the scene.”
The former general, who’s making his second straight bid for the Senate in New Hampshire, has run a populist-style campaign this cycle, emphasizing his MAGA-Republican and outsider credentials in a crowded and combustible GOP primary. In mid-September, Bolduc narrowly edged more mainstream conservative Chuck Morse, the state Senate president who was backed by popular GOP Gov. Chris Sununu, to win the nomination.
And over the past six weeks Bolduc has slowly but steadily eaten into Hassan’s once upper-single digit lead in public opinion polling. The most recent surveys in the race suggest it’s a margin of error contest with six days to go until the election.
The two candidates traded fire at the top of the debate over the combustible issue of abortion.
For weeks Hassan’s campaign and allied Democratic groups have showcased clips of Bolduc from last year vowing that he would never “vote contrary to pro-life” and from June celebrating the blockbuster move by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, sending the issue of legalized abortion back to the states.
But Buldoc told Fox News immediately after capturing the GOP nomination that if he were in the Senate, he would not support a proposal, unveiled earlier this month by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to implement a 15-week federal abortion ban, because abortion is now a state issue.
Bolduc, at Wednesday’s debate, reiterated that “I have promised to all Granite Staters that I will not vote for any federal legislation that has to do with abortion. It is a state’s rights issue.”
Hassan emphasized that “this is about a fundamental right of a woman to make her own health care decisions and her health and safety, and I believe strongly that those decisions need to be made by a woman and her doctor.”
And the senator charged that Bolduc “is a yes vote for a nationwide abortion ban and he’s trying to conceal his record.”
“That is an absolute lie,” the GOP challenger fired back, before alleging that Hassan “does believe in abortion up to birth.”
The senator retorted that “he’s really working to conceal his extremism from Granite Staters.”
On inflation, Hassan touted that “I have stood up to big pharma and passed legislation that will lower people’s prescription drug costs. My opponent says he wouldn’t have done that. I have proposed suspending the gas tax until we see a great reduction in gas prices. My opponent stands with big oil and says he wouldn’t do that either.”
She also showcased her support for bipartisan spending bills she helped pass during both the Trump and Biden administration.
Bolduc stressed that “I wouldn’t have voted for them. They were unnecessary.”
And pointing to record inflation, he charged that “all her votes in the Senate have caused this heating and eating issue that we have. Retirees going back to work. She’s created it by her 100% support to Joe Biden’s failed policies… She’s caused these problems for many Granite Staters going into the winter not knowing how they’ll feed their children and heat their homes.”
Hassan, responding, claimed Bolduc is in big oil’s pockets, saying “you’re hearing Don Bolduc sing big oil’s song.”
Bolduc, who said during the primary campaign that he supported former President Donald Trump’s repeated unproven claims that his 2020 election loss to Biden was due to “massive voter fraud,” quickly reversed course after his nomination victory. In a Fox News interview days later, Bolduc said that after speaking with Granite Staters, he had “come to the conclusion” that the 2020 presidential election “was not stolen.”
Trump, who stayed neutral in the Republican primary in New Hampshire, on Monday endorsed Bolduc but dinged him over reversing his views on the 2020 election.
“General Don Bolduc has run a great campaign to be the U.S. Senator from the beautiful State of New Hampshire. He was a strong and proud ‘Election Denier,’ a big reason that he won the Nomination, but he then disavowed,” Trump wrote on social media.
“He has since come back, at least on busing, but that is only a small part of N.H. Election Fraud. Nevertheless, Don Bolduc has asked for my Endorsement, and he’s got it, Complete & Total,” the former president added.
At the debate, Hassan argued that Bolduc’s changing responses on whether the 2020 election was stolen show that he’s “an extremist, the most extreme nominee for U.S. Senate New Hampshire has seen in modern history and he keeps trying to conceal that from Granite Staters.”
And she argued that “he spent over a year in New Hampshire stoking the big lie… he then has begun to cast doubt on the 2022 elections, saying there will be ballot dumps in the middle of the night.”
Given the chance to respond to Hassan’s attacks, Bolduc criticized the debate’s moderators, saying “thanks for giving her a softball, because that’s exactly what she needed because she can’t hit a fastball.”
And he stressed that “the bottom line is we need to focus on the future.”