A clearly fired-up Gov. Chris Sununu unloaded on his state’s all-Democrat congressional delegation over what he called a “baseless attack” on his pro-choice record. And, he added, their hyper-partisan attacks are only making it more likely he enters the race for Senate against struggling incumbent Maggie Hassan next year.
“If they’re trying to really get me to run for the U.S. Senate with these baseless attacks on me, I suppose that’s one way to do it,” Sununu told radio host Jack Heath, later adding “They’re just poking a bear.”
On Monday, all four members of the state’s federal delegation held their first joint press conference since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, where they attempted to use a vote by the state’s Executive Council to claim Sununu is anti-choice.
The Council voted 4-1 to end state contracts with three Planned Parenthood clinics for non-abortion-related health services, contracts brought before the Council and supported by Sununu.
“Sen. Shaheen and Sen. Hassan are both former governors, they know I can’t control the Executive Council,” Sununu said. “What are they trying to achieve here? Are they trying to bait me into running a race that I would win? Are they trying to bait me into reminding folks how I supported family planning contracts year after year after year?
“I’m not sure what their goal was.”
New Hampshire’s Executive Council “is responsible for overseeing the majority of state contracts and spending, acting as a check against the power of the state’s governor,” according to the nonpartisan group Citizens Count. The five Executive Councilors are elected, not appointed or nominated by the governor. Democrats lost their 3-2 majority in the 2020 election as part of the GOP’s sweep of state elections.
Shaheen, a former governor, falsely claimed Sununu “allowed” the Executive Council vote and suggested, incorrectly, that he had the power to prevent it. Sununu was clearly unhappy, and he attempted to turn the tables on the delegation.
“On the bright side, it’s the first time we’ve seen the delegation in a long time,” Sununu quipped. “I guess they don’t spend all their time at cocktail parties with AOC [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.] and Chuck Schumer.”
“They should be talking to the Federal Reserve about how to control inflation. They should be talking to our military about what went wrong and the action items that need to be taken in Afghanistan. They should be talking to Homeland Security about what exactly is happening in the border crisis,” Sununu said. (Hassan sits on the Homeland Security Committee.)
“Instead, they hold a Zoom call criticizing me on something I support? Talk about deflection. That’s why they should all go. None of them deserve their jobs. They all have to go,” Sununu said.
National Republicans are desperate to get Sununu to take on Hassan, whose seat is viewed as one of the most likely to flip to the GOP next year and, potentially, give Republicans control of the Senate. Polls show Hassan is the least popular of the top-tier elected officials in the state, while Sununu is at the top.
Meanwhile, Biden’s poll numbers have plunged in New Hampshire, where he’s now underwater by -10 points (44 percent approve/55 percent disapprove), according to the Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. That’s not good news in a state where even as Biden was beating President Donald Trump by 8 points, Democrats lost control of the state House, Senate and Executive Council.
Hassan, a first-term senator, has been silent on Biden’s policies, declining to publicly support his $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” proposal, his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, or his border policies. So will Sununu challenge her?
“Have you seen the polls lately,” Sununu asked. “The people of New Hampshire are saying ‘Anyone but Hassan.’ It’s not just Chris Sununu, there are a lot of candidates who could beat Sen. Hassan at this point, her poll numbers are so low.”
“I understand that the governor is defensive about his poor record on women’s health, but I will always speak out to defend New Hampshire women’s reproductive rights. Granite Staters have been rightfully alarmed by the Governor’s decision to sign an abortion ban and mandatory ultrasounds into law and his history of voting to defund Planned Parenthood,” Hassan said in a statement issued by her Senate re-election campaign. “The entire New Hampshire Republican Party — from top to bottom — has made clear that its goal is to restrict women’s access to reproductive care and services.”
Sununu told Heath he’s on “a late fall timetable” before making a decision on a Senate bid. “I’ve got a lot on my plate” with COVID and the economy, “and I always put that before campaigning and fundraising,” Sununu said.
“I think the day after the election last year, Hassan announced she was running for the Senate — the day after the election? That’s all they’ve been doing is worrying about the politics and the campaigns and the fundraising.
“Back here in the 603, we’ve got a job to do and we always put that first,” Sununu said.