At Tuesday’s COVID-19 presser, Gov. Chris Sununu dismissed calls from prominent Democrats that he stop President Trump’s rally in Manchester on Friday. “That’s not possible, nor would it be appropriate,” Sununu said.
“I’ll always be there to greet the president,” he answered when asked about his role at Trump’s event. “I’m not planning on going to the rally. When I can, I try to avoid large crowds, to be honest.”
The two Democrats competing for the chance to run against Sununu in November, state Sen. Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, have both called on Sununu to prevent the president’s rally from happening.
After the Trump rally was announced, Feltes issued a statement urging Sununu to “just say No” to Trump’s rally.
“It’s no surprise that @GovChrisSununu, a self-described ‘Trump guy through and through’ is refusing to stand up to Trump. A political rally that will attract thousands of people, many from out of state, should not come before keeping our schools and communities safe,” Feltes tweeted after the Tuesday presser.
“We need a governor that isn’t afraid to tell Trump to stay home or challenge his failed leadership handling the COVID crisis that has cost us over 176,000 American lives,” Volinsky said Monday.
But can a governor make a POTUS “stay home?” Can he stand at the border and “just say No” to Trump stopping by? NHJournal repeatedly asked both Democrats to explain how they would prevent the rally or stop Trump from coming. They declined to respond.
Sununu supporters note that President Trump recently made appearances in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, both states with Democratic governors, and neither Democrat tried to stop Trump from coming.
And at the same time New Hampshire Democrats are complaining about the potential health risks of the Trump event, local members of the Black Lives Matter movement are preparing to head to D.C. for the March on Washington, where organizers are expecting a crowd of more than 50,000. According to published reports, the National Park Service will not be mandating masks or social distancing.
“While the National Park Service strongly encourages social distancing, the use of masks and other measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, we will not require nor enforce their use,” the NPS said in a statement.
Asked by NHJournal if he had the authority to stop a presidential visit and, if so, does he think as governor he should use it, Sununu said he saw greeting presidents as part of the job.
“I’ve always said I think any governor should do everything they can to make themselves available when any President of the United States comes to visit. It’s a sign of respect, whether they’re Republican or Democrat. It has nothing to do with politics,” Sununu said.
As for preventing a Trump rally as part of a strategy to prevent COVID-19, Sununu noted it’s not the first political event to occur in New Hampshire since the pandemic struck.
“We have said from the very beginning–whether it’s a protest or political rally or a sit-in or whatever — we’re going to treat everyone the same. As long as they are abiding by the rules that we have in place, we don’t pick winners and losers,” Sununu said.
“The idea that my political opponents are telling me I should not allow the President of the United States to come to New Hampshire? I don’t even know how to answer that. Of course, that’s not possible, nor would it be appropriate,” Sununu said.
“We’re New Hampshire,” Sununu added. “We’re kind of a purple state. The role of the governor is to always be a gracious host.”