CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Bass and Democratic rival Ann McLane Kuster are each claiming the mantle of most bipartisan in New Hampshire's tightly contested 2nd Congressional District race.
Kuster often points to her upbringing by Republican parents while Bass talks about working with Democrats on legislation.
Bass beat Kuster by about 3,500 votes two years ago, and the tone of this year's race started civilly as a rematch between two people whose families were friends. But the negative ads have taken a toll with the rhetoric growing sharper as Tuesday's election nears in a race viewed as a tossup.
Bass, who's held the seat for almost 14 years, calls Kuster just another tax-and-spend liberal Democrat and is running an ad of a Kuster lookalike dancing from tax to tax.
Kuster says Bass is a Washington insider who is part of gridlock in Congress. She ran an ad depicting him as a fish who has lost his way.
Kuster accused a Bass campaign staff member of political bullying by thrusting a video camera in her face while she was talking to someone. Kuster grabbed the camera from the campaign worker and returned it later. An audio clip of her cursing the worker later surfaced in an ad run by an independent organization against her.
Bass' campaign also called reporters' attention to a forum where they said Kuster tried to grab the microphone from Bass during his closing remarks. Now Bass has combined the two incidents into a new ad claiming Kuster will vote for taxes that uses the dancing lookalike to grab what the announcer says is the voter's wallet.
Despite the race's increasingly negative, personal tone, Bass and Kuster each insist if elected they will be able to work with the other party. They both say the first legislation they would work on would be bipartisan.
Kuster said she would work to give tax breaks to American companies bringing jobs home from overseas.
"Companies get tax deductions when they move their jobs overseas. I would eliminate those tax deductions and instead create tax incentives for new jobs at home," she said.
Bass would renew efforts with a small group of Republicans and Democrats to find a bipartisan resolution to the country's reaching its debt limit when a series of tax increases and spending cuts take effect.
"This is really the highest priority," he said.
Bass says he would bring his Republican principles to the negotiating table to try to come up with a solution that reflects those values as closely as possible.
Bass and Kuster present voters with clear choices on issues such as Medicare, tax reform and the Affordable Care Act.
Kuster points to Bass votes in support of GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's budget as evidence of his willingness to end Medicare guarantees; he insists he supports preserving Medicare but says the program must change to be saved.
He supports renewing tax cuts set to expire, including for the wealthy; she opposes giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.
She supports the federal health care overhaul but believes Congress now needs to tackle costs by better coordinating care; Bass opposes the law's implementation, arguing it would be devastating to employers in a poor economy.
They do agree that it is time to bring troops home from Afghanistan.
Bass, 60, of Peterborough, served 10 years in the New Hampshire House and Senate before winning the 2nd District seat in 1994. He served six terms before losing to Democrat Paul Hodes in 2006. After his defeat, he worked as a consultant in the alternative energy field and served as president of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a nonprofit advocacy group. He was re-elected to Congress in 2010 when he beat Kuster in a close race.
Kuster, 56, of Hopkinton has been an attorney, lobbyist and community activist. She has specialized in adoptions as well as improving access to quality health care and affordable higher education. She wrote a book with her mother, state Sen. Susan McLane, titled "The Last Dance: Facing Alzheimer's with Love and Laughter." Her mother, who suffered from the disease, died in 2005.