WASHINGTON -- Republican Senate challenger Scott Brown's efforts to cast himself as a New Hampshire native went awry in his final debate against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) on Thursday when a question on economic problems facing Sullivan County turned into a geography lesson.
WMUR's James Pindell, a debate moderator, asked Brown and Shaheen to specify what is and isn't working economically for Sullivan County, which is located in far western New Hampshire. Brown, who moved to New Hampshire after losing his Massachusetts Senate seat in the 2012 election, responded by talking about the impact of Obamacare and high electricity rates, as well as opportunities to boost the ski industry. But he was interrupted twice by Pindell, who said Brown seemed confused about the location of the county in question.
James Pindell: When it comes to jobs and the economy we have a big picture conversation, but I want to drill down to main street here in New Hampshire. You both live on the seacoast, so let’s go to the western part of the state and let’s talk about Sullivan County. Senator Brown what do you see going right in the economy in Sullivan County and what’s going wrong and please be specific.
Scott Brown: Well you’re absolutely right. Geography plays a role, along the southern border we have more jobs, and more opportunity, infrastructure and other opportunities up north that are difficult. But one of the biggest opportunities is tourism. One of the biggest opportunities are our ski areas and trails for snowmobiles. I support those efforts. I know Senator Shaheen references a tourist bill. The biggest wet blanket right now on the economy in that area is Obamacare, it’s also those notices that people are getting 50 to 100% increases on their electric rates. Rates are not going down. On top of that you have a situation where getting from point A to point B and inspiring businesses to stay there is problematic. Because, what are they looking at? Highest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world, Obamacare…
James Pindell: We’re talking about Sullivan County and I think you were talking about the North Country? So what do you see as going well in Sullivan county or not?
Scott Brown: I’m talking about any place past Concord, actually, and the challenges of our state. So I’m referring to the challenges including the high corporate tax rate, Obamacare coming in after the election, we also have the challenges of high electric costs. If you go to any business in any county in our state those are the very real challenges.
James Pindell: Sullivan County is west of Concord. It’s not North of Concord, Senator Brown. So what do you see as going well or what’s not going well there.
Scott Brown: With respect, I've answered the question. The challenge is the same in every county in our state.
Pindell later apologized to Brown, acknowledging that Sullivan County is both north and west of Concord. "On this point, Scott Brown was right. I was wrong," Pindell said.
Brown's campaign has been dogged by charges of carpetbagging. Democrats have repeatedly attacked him for moving to New Hampshire late last year, after he was defeated by Elizabeth Warren in the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race.
Asked on Thursday to explain his move, Brown offered the same response as in previous debates where his residency was questioned: His father was an airman at Pease, and his mother a waitress at Hampton Beach. He was born at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and his family goes back nine generations in the Granite State.
Questions on his residency are attacks "on my wife and my personal family choices," Brown said.
Shaheen, who has previously mocked Brown for treating New Hampshire as a "consolation prize," was initially less forceful on the subject in Thursday's debate, saying there was no problem with her challenger's decision to move. "It's not about where he's from," Shaheen said. "It's about what he stands for."
She later took a jab at Brown while listing domestic priorities that included populist economic proposals, equal pay, and fighting against big oil companies.
"Most importantly, we need a senator from New Hampshire," Shaheen added.
Shaheen wasted no time seizing on Brown's debate snafu. Her campaign announced she will visit Sullivan County on Friday. Brown's campaign later announced that he, too, would make a stop in the county on Friday.
Brown's campaign clarified after the debate that his point about the ski industry was a reference to Mt. Sunapee, a ski resort in Sullivan County he recently visited.Pindell seemed to acknowledge that in a tweet:
— James Pindell (WMUR) (@JamesPindell) October 31, 2014
This article has been updated to include Pindell's apology and comments from the Brown campaign clarifying Brown's remarks during the debate. The original headline has been modified to reflect those comments.
HuffPost's Pollster average, which combines all publicly available polling, shows Shaheen leading Brown by about two percentage points.
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Watch the exchange in the video above.