Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley focused on her track record and touted plans for border security, at a town hall event in Keene Wednesday evening. A few hundred people showed up in attendance at Tempesta’s Ballroom at the Best Western Hotel, where Haley discussed topics ranging from border policy to foreign relations.
“I’ll tell you this. If you will join with me, if you will join with Chris [Sununu], if you will join with this movement, I promise you that our best days are yet to come,” she said.
Haley is a former governor of South Carolina and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
As she walked on stage to the song “Eye of the Tiger” by the rock band Survivor Wednesday evening, she remarked positively on Sununu’s governance style.
“We both see things in a very similar way. The fact that government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people. It was never meant to be all things to all people,” she said. “… And the idea that I keep thinking [is], ‘How cool would it be if we had a ‘live free or die’ country?’ ”
Sununu, who endorsed Haley Tuesday, appeared onstage earlier, after being introduced by Keene Mayor George Hansel. Sununu opened his speech by saying Haley’s campaign had gained momentum and added that he was “120 percent” behind her.
“The energy is there. Folks are coming out,” he said. “… The momentum is there. The opportunity is there.”
Haley focused the first third of her speech on her former career as governor and U.N. ambassador, highlighting the bills she signed into law as governor, including a voter ID law, small business tax cuts, and “one of the toughest illegal immigration laws in the country.”
That bill, passed in 2011, required that police check the immigration status of anyone they stopped or arrested and suspected might be in the country without proper documentation, according to previous reporting by Reuters. Several sections of the law were blocked in a federal court in 2011, after the ACLU argued in court that they were unconstitutional and interfered with federal laws, according to the organization’s website.
“And then I got the call for the United Nations, and my honest answer was, I don’t even know what the U.N. does; I just know everybody hates it,” she said to some laughter. “And I wasn’t wrong about that.”
She said that at the U.N., her goal was for other countries to “respect America.”
“We pulled ourselves out of the Iran deal; we moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; I pushed China to pass the largest set of sanctions against a country in a generation,” she said, referencing sanctions against North Korea. “… But the best thing that we did was we took the ‘kick me’ sign off of our backs, and America was respected again.”
Haley then transitioned into discussing current problems residents face, including the high cost of living, and placed blame on President Joe Biden and certain elected Republicans.
“You go look at that 2.2 trillion-dollar COVID stimulus bill that they passed with no accountability,” she said. “… And did Republicans try to make it right? No, they doubled down … in the 2024 appropriations budget, Republicans put in 7.4 billion dollars’ worth of pet projects and earmarks. Democrats put in 2.8 billion.”
She also highlighted high rates of homelessness, suicide among veterans, conflicts abroad and education issues. To solve some of the problems, Haley advocated for imposing term limits, administering a mental competency test for lawmakers over the age of 75, going after pandemic relief fraud and taking a hardline stance on the federal budget.
“They have one job. It’s to give us a budget on time. Don’t ever let them talk to you about shutting down [the] government,” she said. “… I think it’s time we tell them, ‘You don’t give us a budget on time, you don’t get paid.’”
For border security, Haley’s idea to defund sanctuary cities and put 25,000 Border Patrol and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on the ground was met with cheers and applause.
Areas where officials limit cooperation with federal immigration officials are sometimes called sanctuary cities. In 2017, Peterborough residents rejected a sanctuary city proposal by ballot, while Harrisville voters approved one by ballot that same year, according to previous reporting by The Sentinel.
At the end, Haley accepted several questions from audience members, including one about her plans for Social Security.
“We have to deal with reform of Social Security and Medicare, but that doesn’t mean you should fear it,” she said. “… If you paid in, if you’ve been promised, you should get exactly what you’ve been promised. But those that we change it on are [people] like my kids in their 20s … we go to them, and we say we’re going to change the retirement age to reflect life expectancy.”
John Martin of Chesterfield told a reporter separately that although he is an independent, he was “very impressed” by some of Haley’s ideas.
“I think we align on more things than we disagree with,” he said. “… I’m looking for an alternative to, you know, the front-runners.”