Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas is up for re-election in the competitive 1st District in New Hampshire. The freshman lawmaker is young, passionate and part of the new younger face of Congress.
Now 39, he's New Hampshire's first openly LGBTQ federal lawmaker. It’s one of several things he has in common with 38-year-old presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. They both also attended Harvard University.
“The fact that we have an out person who's a major candidate for president right now is pretty remarkable,” he says. “I never thought I would see that in my lifetime, growing up in New Hampshire.”
But don't assume Pappas will automatically vote for Buttigieg because of their similarities. He says he went into Friday night’s Democratic debate undecided and left feeling “even more undecided.”
Pappas says he’s certain, though, that his state has the chance to shape the Democratic field of candidates and the current conversation around national politics.
“That's what's made New Hampshire so special over the hundred years that it's had the first in the nation primary,” he says.
On still being undecided on a presidential candidate
“As a Democrat, I've decided about one thing, and that's that we need to replace this president. And I think that's what most of the voters in the Democratic primary here are going through. They like a number of the candidates. They're assessing the field, but they understand that winning is critically important if we're going to move forward on our agenda.”
On whether states with more diverse populations should go first in the primaries
“There's a case to be made for having states with a smaller scale to go at the head of the calendar. And that's why both parties have decided to put together a calendar that has these four first states, who I think collectively represent the diversity that America has to offer. This should be about conversations, and I think we can have that here in a more purposeful way than a larger contest in a bigger state. This is a live and let live state. I was blessed to become the first LGBT member of Congress from New Hampshire. And so I think that we understand that there are differences. And across the country, diversity is a strength in America. But I think New Hampshire voters like to make sure that everyone's included in the process.”
On being an out LGBTQ politician
“I knew I had an interest in politics. I was a volunteer early on, and when you grow up in New Hampshire, it's all around you, right? And so you can see avenues to get involved and help out. And I found that exciting at an early age. I never thought I'd be able to really, you know, have a career as an out politician.”
On being on Trump’s radar
“... Look, this is a competitive state and I represent a competitive district, [which] hasn't re-elected anyone since 2008. So this is one of a couple dozen districts across the country where Donald Trump won in 2016. And there was a Democrat who won in 2018 in the race for Congress. So that's on the target list. And that's really the battlefield for the next race for Congress.”
On whether he supports “Medicare for All”
“That's not a proposal that I support. I think we should build on what we have that has shown that it can bring more people into the system and improve outcomes. There's an effort underway right now to repeal the [Affordable Care Act] and, you know, invalidated it in court, which would take away health care from tens of millions of Americans. We've got to stop that. And I think focus on costs and on the quality of coverage that people have.”
On whether impeachment was a political loss for Democrats
“I think that with the issue of impeachment, you always need to tread very carefully when you consider that matter. And I think members of the House did just that. The evidence piled up in a way where we could not turn our backs and felt we had to act in accordance with our oath. We understand that the political chips are going to fall where they may, but that we have a case about trying to make progress for the people. That's where our focus has got to be on a positive agenda. You know, we'll see what the voters of New Hampshire have in store. I know we're going to get quick results and that the rest of the country will be able to follow suit.”
This segment aired on February 10, 2020.