No rest for Ayotte, Hassan in run-up to Election Day

HAMPTON, N.H. (AP) — Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton like to say “I’m with her.” The refrain from Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, hoping to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, is “she’s with him.”

Rallying campaign volunteers in Hampton on Sunday, Hassan told the crowd what she called the “latest chapter” of her opponent’s tortured relationship to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

For months, Ayotte supported Trump without endorsing him. She later called him a role model for children, took that statement back and then dropped her support altogether, saying she will write in vice presidential nominee Mike Pence on Tuesday instead. A subsequent flier sent by the New Hampshire Republican Party urges voters to re-elect Ayotte because Trump needs senators like her.

“She’s with him again,” Hassan said. “That really reflects that she puts politics ahead of our state.”

Ayotte and Hassan are in a tight race that will help determine control of the Senate.

Hassan told reporters that Ayotte is misleading voters by claiming to be an independent voice in the Senate, and that voters who recognize that will choose both her and Clinton at the top of the ticket.

But Ayotte said she expects split-ticket voting.

“This is a state where people make individual decisions. That’s not unusual in New Hampshire in prior elections. I know that each place on the ballot, people will decide who is the best person to represent them, who will stand up to both parties when they’re taking us in the wrong direction,” she said. “I’ve done that, so that’s what I’m talking to New Hampshire voters about.”

Ayotte, who is making 50 stops around the state in the five days before Election Day, started Sunday at MaryAnn’s Diner, a perennial favorite of candidates in Derry. Sitting at the counter was Wally Heath, 84, of Windham, wearing a hat that said “If it ain’t about the Constitution, it ain’t American.” He asked Ayotte who her presidential choice is. Ayotte told him she has problems with Trump but can’t vote for Hillary Clinton.

Heath said later he was a “little disappointed” by that, but he understands. He said some of Ayotte’s positions make him uncomfortable but otherwise supports her.

Ayotte’s next stop was a 5K run that raises money for veterans programs in honor of a Navy SEAL killed in action.

“I’m energized by this. I love going out and meeting people,” she said. “This part is just getting to the finish line by meeting as many voters as I can.”

Hassan, who’s made about 40 stops in the last four days and was appearing with Clinton at a rally later Sunday, was joined by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at the Market Basket grocery store in Epping. Tara Chaney, 39, an independent from Raymond, got a hug from Hassan.

“Gov. Hassan is just down to earth, and I believe in her vision,” she said. “Look at her, she’s in the grocery store embracing people.”

Ayotte planned to visit the same store late Sunday afternoon.

(Copyright (c) 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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