DUBLIN — Back in the late-1970s, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bryant “Corky” Messner — then a cadet at the United States Military Academy West Point — said he was taken aback by the natural splendor of the region when helping a classmate close up his aunt’s camp at the foot of Mount Monadnock.
“I remember as a young, blue-collar kid — West Point cadet who didn’t know much about anything — that I was struck by the beauty of New Hampshire, and had a dream to come back here some day,” Messner told The Sentinel ahead of an event at the Dublin Public Library.
Now, the Colorado native has his sights set on representing the Granite State in Washington.
Messner, 63, is one of three Republicans running to take on incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat who served as governor from 1997 to 2003.
The other two Republican primary candidates are former N.H. House Speaker Bill O’Brien of Mount Vernon and retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc of Stratham.
Messner bought a house in Wolfeboro 14 years ago, living there part-time until he said he began to run his law firm from New Hampshire full-time around two or three years ago.
In an interview before Wednesday’s library event, Messner walked through his biography and views on domestic and foreign policy.
He said his experience as a West Point graduate — serving as an Army Ranger captain in then-West Germany during the Cold War — in addition to what he described as his “self-made” business career make him the best-qualified candidate in the race.
His law firm, Messner Reeves LLP, has represented Wells Fargo Bank, Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Goodwill Industries, according to its website.
Messner added that “growing up in a blue-collar family and knowing what it’s like to worry about food on the table and what clothes you’re gonna wear” is another crucially informative experience that would inform how he would vote on Capitol Hill.
Many of the views Messner describe align with longstanding conservative Republican principles.
He said he is pro-Second Amendment to the fullest extent, and would not vote for any additional gun-control measures, including universal background checks. Instead, he added, authorities should “enforce laws already on the books,” which he argued amount to de facto universal background checks.
He said he supports President Donald Trump on immigration, and would vote for more funds for a wall along the Mexican border, though not at the expense of any in-state Department of Defense budget items such as the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Messner said he’s against raising the federal minimum wage, cautioning of job losses among small businesses and arguing that in New Hampshire — which has no state minimum and resorts to the federal one — any entry-level employee can quickly get paid above $7.25 per hour if they work hard enough.
On some other issues, Messner holds views not as widely shared in the Republican Party.
He said he would not support a judge intent on overturning abortion protections under Roe v. Wade, adding that the landmark Supreme Court case is a legitimate precedent.
Messner also said he is against the U.S. government negotiating prescription drug prices, one of the few initiatives with broad, bipartisan support in Congress.
“The government, you know, being involved in negotiating drug prices, is not the best thing, and let me tell you why,” Messner told a handful of voters gathered at the library. “Because the government tends not to do a very good job at those things.
“We know that government involvement in things usually doesn’t result in the best result possible,” he said, adding that he is in favor of lowering drug prices.
Instead, Messner said he would support “more transparency” in pricing and which entities get a “markup,” which he argued would allow the free market to lower prices more effectively.
On impeachment, Messner said he is against the inquiry and that Trump should not be removed from office. But he added that he does not believe Ukraine colluded with the Democrats to hack themselves and blame Russia during the 2016 election — a theory shared by Trump and Republican lawmakers defending him on television.
Messner said he wants to keep the focus of the race on the issues and Shaheen, rather than making it a referendum on the president.
Primary voting for statewide races in 2020 will be on Sept. 8, followed by the general election Nov. 3.