Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Scott Brown headed straight for Sullivan County on Friday and defended his answer in a debate that had Democrats claiming he was unfamiliar with the geography of his new home state.
In the WMUR-TV debate Thursday, Brown and Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen were asked what they'd do to improve the economy in Sullivan County. Brown began talking about supporting ski areas and snowmobile trails and a debate panelist twice interrupted, saying it sounded like the candidate was talking about the state's North Country, which has the majority of the state's ski areas.
Brown responded that he was talking about places "past Concord" including Sullivan County, most of which is north of the capital, and said businesses in every county face the same challenges, such as high electric rates, corporate taxes and rising costs associated with the Affordable Care Act. After the debate, his campaign said the comment about ski areas referred to the Mount Sunapee resort, which is not in Sullivan County but neighboring Merrimack County.
The panelist acknowledged that he was wrong about the location of Sullivan County and he apologized to Brown.
Asked about the geography feud on Friday, Brown said: "You want to talk directions - guess which direction we're going in? The wrong direction."
"The biggest issue affecting every business is Obamacare," Brown added. "Everything I said (at the debate) was 100 percent accurate."
Brown, along with his wife and one of his daughters, visited with customers at the Country Kitchen in Newport, joining some in singing "The Star Spangled Banner" before embarking on a GOP candidate bus tour. Shaheen was planning to visit Claremont on Friday afternoon, and her campaign said Brown's remarks showed he doesn't understand New Hampshire. Claremont Mayor James Nielsen, who has endorsed Shaheen, said Brown "proved that not only can he not find us on a map, but also that he doesn't care about us at all."
Brown called the mayor's comments "partisan politics" and said Nielsen's city faces the same challenges as others in the state.
Brown sat down on a counter stool alongside John Chiarella of Sunapee and the two talked about health care. Chiarella, who said his health care policy was canceled last year, said he's "absolutely" a Brown supporter.
Chiarella said he was surprised by the Sullivan County exchange during the debate and described it as "unfair," but added, "I thought he answered it well."
Brown, who lived in New Hampshire as a baby, moved to Rye last year after losing the Senate seat he won in the 2010 special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts.