LONDONDERRY, N.H. (AP) — To New Hampshire voters, hearing an eyebrow-raising comment from state Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Republican and fervent Donald Trump supporter, is nothing new.
He has mocked a female colleague’s breasts, expressed “disgust” at a gay soldier and proudly told reporters to get their heads “out of your butts” in defense of Trump, the Republican presidential nominee. But Baldasaro’s comments took a darker turn this week, when he said presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason” over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans while Clinton was serving as secretary of state. The U.S. Secret Service says it’s investigating the comments.
“I’m afraid for her life,” said Joanna Casey, a Democrat and one of Baldasaro’s constituents from Londonderry. “If you feel that way, keep that to yourself. We’ve got enough going on in this country with violence.”
Baldasaro is a delegate for Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he made his firing squad comments, and is often invited to stand behind Trump on stage at events beyond New Hampshire. Trump has even declared Baldasaro, a Marine Corps veteran, his “favorite vet.”
But Baldasaro’s latest remarks aren’t winning support back home. Prominent New Hampshire Republicans from U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte to House Speaker Shawn Jasper denounced Baldasaro’s comments.
“Whether a person likes Hillary Clinton or not, the idea that a New Hampshire lawmaker would suggest that a candidate should be executed is just outrageous,” Jasper said. “Obviously, people are going to wonder who we’re electing.”
Trump’s spokeswoman said the candidate “does not agree” with what Baldarsaro said. Baldasaro did not return repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press but told the Boston Globe on Wednesday he stands by his comments “without a doubt.”
Baldasaro was first elected to represent Londonderry in 2006 and is now serving his fifth term. He’s up for re-election again this November. The town of 24,000 is a GOP stronghold — all seven representatives are Republicans. Some of his constituents say Baldasaro’s outspoken nature is exactly why they like him.
“I like people that come out and say what they are thinking. I think that’s why I like Al,” said Phil Borriello, a welder from Londonderry and Trump supporter. Borriello said Baldasaro’s latest comments are “a little over the top,” but he’ll still vote for him this November.
Earlier this year, Baldasaro was at the center of a fiery legislative debate over whether women should be able to expose their breasts in public. On Facebook, Baldasaro accused a female colleague of wanting to turn New Hampshire beaches into “pervert shows,” and he told her: “No disrespect, but your nipple would be the last one I would want to see.”
Republican Rep. Bill O’Brien, a former speaker of the New Hampshire House and a friend of Baldasaro’s, noted that the New Hampshire legislature is made up of residents who make $100 a year and often lack political training. He called Baldasaro’s comments about Clinton “outside the bounds” but said Baldasaro “cares passionately” about being a good lawmaker.
“Often, you’ll have good people who, in order to emphasize a point, will turn to bad rhetoric,” O’Brien said.
Not all New Hampshire voters are willing to chalk the comments up to “bad rhetoric.”
“His comments are an embarrassment to the state of New Hampshire,” said Bob Yarmo, a Democrat from Pelham, a town near Londonderry. “Some nut job is going to pick that up and take it literally.”