Republican businessman Rich Ashooh last week announced his candidacy for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st District. Ashooh will face a tough primary fight against incumbent Congressman Frank Guinta and state Rep. Pam Tucker. Businessman Dan Innis recently exited the race. Democrats also have a primary battle between former U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and businessman Shawn O’Connor.
NH Journal spoke with Ashooh about his decision to run in this race, which the Cook Political Report rates as one of the most competitive in the country.
“I’m running because I care about my state and my country, and I care about the next generation. I feel like the problems we have now are not only pretty serious, in some ways more serious than we’ve ever seen, but they’re also the kind of problems that I believe I, with my background, can be helpful,” Ashooh stated in an interview. “I come from a community, a family, where you see a problem, you try to help out. Sometimes that means running for something, sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, I believe it does, so I’m happy to join the race.”
Ashooh sees his personal experience playing a significant role in the race and influencing how he works to solve problems if elected.
“Lining up the problems with my experience, number one is we have this intractible problem with debt and deficits in this country. We have chronic deficit spending and a debt that as a percentage of GDP hasn’t been this high since World War II. And that’s an issue that’s deep in my DNA. I’ve been a deficit fighter since my days working for Warren Rudman,” he says.
Ashooh was a staff member of Rudman’s in the U.S. Senate, and he went on to serve as a first state director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization co-founded by Rudman to advocate fiscal responsibility.
Asked about how Congress can go about solving the nation’s fiscal challenges, Ashooh explained, “It’s not simply a matter of sitting around a table and cutting things. We need to do some heavy-duty reforms of important programs—taxes and entitlements—in order to do this right, but I believe it will still be worth it in the end.”
“The administration’s approach was to not focus on entitlement reform and rather add a new entitlement on top of the broken ones we have,” he stated, pointing to Obamacare.
But Ashooh says his focus in this race extends beyond debt and deficits. He’s also very knowledgeable of the country’s national security challenges after working as a top executive at defense contractor BAE Systems for over 20 years.
“The second most critical issue and the one that is truly motivating me this time is national security,” explains Ashooh. “I think we have an administration, a president, that has been less inclined to address national security as a priority. Let’s face it, he’s had other priorities these past eight years, and those issues are now coming home to roost in the form of a resurgent Russia, an emboldened Iran, the rise of ISIS. This has to stop, and we need people who understand national security, which I’ve worked in for more than 20 years, to really take it on.”
This is not Ashooh’s first run for Congress. He lost the 2010 primary by four points to Guinta, who last year was found to have broken campaign finance laws when he accepted a large donation from his parents. Ashooh says he’s sure Guinta’s ethics challenges will be a factor in the race, but he’s running because he sees a set of issues he can help solve. “I never would have thought I would have seen a backsliding of American global leadership in the way we have, and that is what’s motivating me to get out of my chair.”
Asked about the ongoing Republican presidential primary, Ashooh made clear he would not rely on the coattails of whoever ultimately wins the nomination. He remains unsure whether he will endorse the eventual Republican nominee. “I would not give unconditional support to some unnamed person in any circumstance,” he says as he explains he has been a loyal Republican for decades. “I’m conservative. I’m Republican. But there are things I care about more than being Republican. I care about my conservative principles. I care about my faith, my country, my family. And all of that goes into determining who I will support.”