CONWAY — Republican congressional hopeful Karoline Leavitt on Wednesday sparred with Sun Publisher Mark Guerringue about Donald Trump and the economy during a combative editorial board meeting, held via conference call, and during which she twice threatened to hang up the phone.
Leavitt, 25, of Hampton, is a former assistant press secretary for the Trump administration. She’s currently neck and neck in statewide polls with Gilford Republican Matt Mowers for the lead in the primary race, which will be decided Sept. 13. The winner will take on incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas in the general election in November.
At the editorial board, Leavitt called Mowers a “terrible candidate” and noted that he lost to Pappas in 2020.
“I am proud to be the homegrown America First candidate in this race,” said Leavitt, adding she has raised more money and held more events than the other hopefuls.
“The momentum and enthusiasm are on our side. And I look forward to winning on the 13th of September, and then, more importantly, beating Chris Pappas in November, flipping this district red, taking back the House and ending Joe Biden’s socialist agenda that is destroying our country,” she said.
In July 2021, shortly after filing to run, she spoke to a roomful of people at the Center Conway home of Mount Washington Valley Republican Committee Chairman Steven Steiner.
She also put in an appearance at the Lobster Trap restaurant in North Conway this past June.
She said she will be back in Conway on Sept. 9 for a meet and greet at a private residence.
Mowers served as a senior White House adviser in Trump’s administration, as well as chief of staff to Dr. Deborah Birx, a physician and diplomat who served as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator.
A reporter asked Leavitt, who worked in Trump’s press office, why she is more qualified to be elected to Congress.
“Mowers was the chief of staff to Dr. Deborah Birx, who is a deep-state bureaucrat, who admitted in her recent book that she manipulated COVID-19 data and lied to President Trump to force millions of Americans, our small business community, into lockdown enclosures,” said Leavitt.
“I was proud to serve as an assistant press secretary in President Trump’s White House under the leadership of Kayleigh McEnany, where I fought back every single day on the front lines against the fake news media and the political elites that were attacking not only the president but millions of freedom-loving patriots across our state and country who believe in the America First agenda.”
Leavitt said the America First platform consists of cutting spending/reducing inflation, closing the border and preventing things like transgender ideology and critical race theory from being taught in schools.
She would have opposed spending $54 billion on Ukraine because, she said, the U.S. is facing an “invasion” from the south. She said abortion is a states’ rights issue.
Leavitt touted Trump’s management of the economy, but Guerringue pushed back by saying Leavitt’s vow to be a penny pincher seemed to be the opposite of how Trump actually governed. Trump added nearly $8 trillion to the debt and is in third place behind George W. Bush and Abraham Lincoln when it comes to deficit spending.
“President Trump’s economic policies unleashed the greatest economy in the history of our country and the numbers prove it,” said Leavitt. “Unemployment was low. How did we do that? We did it by rolling back regulation and cutting red tape.”
But, she said, the Biden administration “has reversed nearly all of those policies, particularly for our oil industry, which is why we’ve also seen a surge in gas prices.”
Leavitt said Biden has spent more than the U.S. has spent in a quarter of its existence. She said Biden has put the country into a recession and we’re now facing “stagflation.”
But Guerringue countered that the economy is in “good shape” and mentioned that the U.S. is the largest producer of oil in the world.
Leavitt suggested the Sun go talk with voters who are struggling with 40-year-high inflation rates and won’t be able to pay their heating bills this year.
“I am not going to continue with this interview if you guys are going to sit here and say that our economy is in a better place than it was two years ago, because that is not a fact,” said Leavitt who also threatened to end the interview over the topic of Trump’s spending.
Asked if the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, Leavitt said she thinks so.
“I do not believe Joe Biden legitimately won 81 million votes. That’s a preposterous claim,” said Leavitt. “If you talk to voters, they don’t believe that either. We saw mass absentee ballots flooding our election system, which led to chaos and confusion and fraudulent ballots all over the place. We saw unelected bureaucrats circumventing state legislatures and changing election law weeks before the election, which was completely unconstitutional.”
She said the media played a role in protecting Biden. For example, she said the media buried the Hunter Biden laptop story to benefit Joe Biden.
Guerringue pushed back again, saying that more than 60 lawsuits alleging that the election was stolen have been thrown out of court, that even conservative media outlets like The Wall Street Journal agree the election wasn’t stolen and so did former Trump Attorney General William Barr.
“I believe the anecdotes and the millions of affidavits that were signed and sworn by the American people from what they saw in the 2020 election,” said Leavitt.
“Personally, myself, when I was living in Washington, D.C., and working for President Trump at the White House at the time, I received more than seven ballots to my apartment under different names. That is not election integrity.”
For more about karoline leavitt’s campaign, go to karolineforcongress.com.