Candidate criticism sharpens in gubernatorial debate

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu criticized his opponent's lack of specifics, while Democrat Molly Kelly accused the incumbent of falsely attacking her strengths as the pair met Thursday for a televised debate.

The candidates faced each other on WMUR-TV five days before the election. Sununu, who is seeking a second term, said Kelly, a former state senator, failed to offer specific solutions on a range of issues.

"Not a single concrete answer. She was asked about fuel: Nothing. She was asked about the economy: Nothing," he said. "I've yet to hear a single idea about where we need to go and what we need to implement. You have to understand how these systems work to know how they're going to be implemented."

Kelly had been asked what "one specific thing" she would do differently on her first day of office. She said she would ensure that no child starts the school day hungry, and then said she would address the state's opioid crisis via an "emergency plan" to improve prevention, treatment and recovery programs, particularly those aimed at children affected by the crisis. Responding to Sununu's criticism, she pointed to her time in the Statehouse and a bill she sponsored to allow towns and businesses to get rebates for generating their own energy.

"I was a state senator for 10 years," she said. "I got things done, and I know how to get things done."

She later suggested Sununu was getting "desperate" by attacking her commitment to children when contrasted with an overhaul of the state's child protection system that began under his administration with budget cuts in that area while Kelly was in the Senate.

"My opponent is wrong about slashing a budget. When those really deep cuts were taking place, I did not support the budget," she said. "I think it's always interesting when your opponent is nervous or getting desperate in a campaign to start to attack you about your strengths. I have been an advocate for children my entire life, and I have been an advocate for children every day in the state Senate."

Kelly also countered that Sununu is failing to protect children in schools because he doesn't support gun control measures, such as allowing communities to designate gun-free school zones, universal background checks or allowing family members to ask a judge to remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a threat. She criticized him for visiting a gun manufacturer and tweeting that "business is booming" on Monday, two days after 11 people were killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

"The governor thinks our gun laws are fine and gun sales are booming. I believe we need common-sense gun safety," she said.

Sununu said designating gun-free zones won't stop shooters, and said adults have a constitutional right to carry concealed weapons into schools. A school safety task force he appointed earlier this year made no recommendations about guns but focused on mental health, planning, training and other areas.

"You can talk about guns and that political argument all day long, but at the end of day are we really providing the services to the individual, to the person that would do harm?" he said. "If someone has the will to shoot up a school or a synagogue, a sign isn't going to stop that. We need to make sure we're providing those services, make sure a kid with a problem doesn't become a kid in crisis."

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