AP NEWS

Pappas T-shirt becomes hot topic at congressional debate

October 24, 2018
FILE - This combination of Oct. 18, 2018 file photos shows Republican Eddie Edwards, left, and Democrat Chris Pappas, right, during a 1st Congressional District candidates debate in Manchester, N.H. They are facing off in the November general election (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Eddie Edwards and his congressional opponent Chris Pappas spent much of a debate Wednesday talking about the economy, but the most heated exchange revolved around a T-shirt.

Edwards, a Republican, suggested a shirt with the word “Resist” Pappas had been photographed wearing showed he would go to Washington only to oppose Trump’s agenda. Pappas, his Democratic opponent, who is gay, responded that the shirt was worn at a gay pride event and was his way of showing opposition to federal policies that harm the LGBT community.

“The photo you are referring to is a rainbow shirt I wore at a gay pride event in Portsmouth,” Pappas said of the photo, where he posed with two women wearing “Portsmouth Pride” hats. “I am proud of who I am and I am proud to stand up against hate, bigotry and intolerance and I think we need people who are willing to do that.”

Edwards grew defensive and suggested Pappas was trying to introduce his sexual orientation into the debate.

“No one here said anything about you wearing a gay pride shirt,” Edwards said. “I said ‘resist.’ You had a ‘resist’ shirt on. You are resisting the will of the people of this state and the will of the people of this country.”

Pappas continued to argue Edwards misconstrued the meaning of the shirt. Edwards, who is black, accused his opponent, who is white, of wanting to make the race “about ethnicity, race, sexual orientation and gender.” He said Pappas saying the shirt had to do with gay rights was “absurd.”

Pappas doubled down and said the rainbow shirt stood for inclusion.

“I believe everyone should feel welcome here,” Pappas said, as Edwards interrupted him to ask what “resist” stood for.

“We should oppose policies like we have seen at the federal level that tell transgender service members that they are not welcome to serve their country, policies that have undermined the progress we have made for LGBT members of our communities here in New Hampshire,” he said. “I do believe in a future that includes everyone and that is the context I wore that shirt.”

Wednesday’s forum at the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce was the latest in a series of debates. Edwards and Pappas are competing to replace Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District, which has swung back and forth between the two parties over the last decade. Pappas has a slight lead in the polls.

The two also sparred over the best way to help the state’s economy, and both said they would work in a bipartisan fashion to overcome partisan gridlock in Washington.

Edwards credited the Republican tax cuts with spurring growth and putting more money into the pockets of Granite state residents. He said he would work to make the cuts permanent.

“I do think the tax cut was effective,” Edwards said, insisting more money was coming into the general fund despite the fact the tax cuts have been found to be contributing to the rising federal deficit. “The business community asked for tax cuts and they have rewarded workers, our communities.”

Pappas said the tax cuts were mostly helping the rich and are unnecessary at a time of strong economic growth.

Pappas talked of investing in a commuter rail line from Manchester to Boston as well as investing in programs to retain and attract young workers to the state, which has both an aging workforce and one of the country’s lowest unemployment rates.

“We are facing a demographic challenge that is really significant,” he said. “The way we address this is by making sure that college is more affordable and making sure we invest in job training and apprenticeship programs so we give individuals the skills they need to start their careers right here in the Granite state.”

Edwards, a former police chief and former chief enforcement officer for the state Liquor Commission, and Pappas, who serves on the governor’s Executive Council and runs his family’s restaurant, will debate three more times before the Nov. 6 election.