Congresswoman Annie Kuster stepped into the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial primary Wednesday, endorsing State Senator Dan Feltes over Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky. In doing so, she appears to raise questions about Volinsky’s stance on abortion, a recurring theme of the Feltes campaign in the final days before Tuesday’s vote.
Kuster’s endorsement video focuses heavily on Feltes’ support for abortion rights. “I feel very strongly about our strong pro-choice record for reproductive rights right here in New Hampshire,” Kuster said. “We believe in the longstanding tradition of privacy and less government interference in people’s private lives, including when and whether to bear a child.”
Volinsky and Feltes share nearly identical positions on abortion and reproductive rights. And yet the Feltes campaign has begun pushing the issue in its contest with Volinsky. “With reproductive rights under attack across the country, [Kuster] knows Granite Staters need a governor who will stand up and support women’s autonomy and reproductive rights. That’s why she’s endorsing Dan Feltes for governor,” a Wednesday campaign email reads.
It’s a move former Executive Councilor Democrat Dudley Dudley calls “very politically convenient.”
“During yesterday’s gubernatorial primary debate, I was pretty shocked to hear Dan casting doubt on Andru’s pro-choice credentials,” Dudley wrote in a campaign email Tuesday. “Questioning his confirmation of New Hampshire Supreme Court Justices Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi and Patrick Donovan was wrong.
“But I want to set the record straight: These votes were unanimous across the Executive Council, and this is the very first time I’ve heard Dan speak out about the confirmations. No civil rights or women’s groups voiced any concerns.”
“These attacks are baseless and frankly desperate,” Dudley added.
Kuster’s endorsement video hit the same day a new University of New Hampshire poll gave Volinsky a slight edge in the race over Feltes.
In the Granite State Poll conducted by the UNH Survey Center, Volinsky is up 38 percent to Feltes’ 36 percent, though both badly trail Gov. Chris Sununu in the same poll. According to UNH, Sununu is beating Volinsky 58 percent to 32 percent, while Feltes does a little better against Sununu, 57 to 33 percent.
The state Democratic Party has not made any endorsements during the primary, and sources in the party said that is not going to change. The party leaves it up to individual politicians whether or not to make an endorsement.
Sources close to the Volinsky campaign note the Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund is also staying silent in the race between Volinksy and Feltes. They see this as a win for Volinsky, given the organization’s history of backing the “establishment” candidate in NH primaries.
Abortion isn’t necessarily a defining right or left issue in Granite State politics. “Sununu is pro-choice, but has stated opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion.” He’s angered those on the left on the subject, though, most recently with his veto of a bill that would have required all commercial health care plans that cover maternity costs to insure abortion services.
Sununu said that law runs counter to federal law, which bans discrimination against insurance policies that don’t pay for abortions.
Kuster has a tendency to go her own way on endorsements. She came out in favor of Molly Kelly during the 2018 primary with progressive Steve Marchand. She was also the first major state Democrat to endorse in the presidential primary, coming out for Pete Buttigieg.
Kuster also endorsed Rep. Joe Kennedy’s unsuccessful attempt to unseat Sen. Ed Markey in Massachusetts.