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Sununu’s Inaugural Speech: Getting Laughs, Going Long and Drawing Lines

The most memorable thing about Gov. John Chris Sununu’s second inaugural address (other than Speaker Shurtleff’s gaffe) was how much fun the governor had giving it.  It’s the defining aspect of the Sununu style of governance:  In a time of seemingly non-stop political anger and partisan anguish, Chris Sununu is having a great time.

A little too great, based on the 60+ minutes run time. (“This was 20 minutes when I read it at home last night,” Sununu assured the assembled). Still, by peppering the speech with personal stories and anecdotes– along with classic Sununu self-deprecation–the governor kept things moving. And any speech that can work in quotes from Harry Potter and Adam Sandler can’t be all bad.


Most of the speech was spent cheerleading–another Sununu staple. He celebrated the state’s economy, the previous work of the legislature, the efforts of healthcare and public safety employees, the life of George H. W. Bush, his wife’s charity work with Bridges House, etc.

If Gov. Sununu’s speech had a soundtrack, it would have been “Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie.

But everything isn’t quite awesome, as the governor acknowledged, as he spoke about suicide rates in a way that echoed the discussion of opioid addiction a few years ago. He also talked about the ongoing drug abuse issue, the “hub and spoke” approach, and lingering concerns about the performance of DCYF, etc.

Not surprisingly for a Republican governor who must work with a Democratic-controlled legislature, Sununu avoided partisanship. In fact, the words “Republican” and “Democrat” appear but once in his prepared remarks:

“Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, Independent or Libertarian — we all share a passion for making our communities the strongest they can be.”

But that doesn’t mean Sununu avoided partisan politics. New Hampshire Democrats haven’t been shy talking about the tax increases that are part of their “Granite State Opportunity Plan.”  Though the Democrats in the House and Senate haven’t come together on a single approach, they all involve at a minimum taking away tax reductions scheduled for the future, if not raising tax rates on businesses outright.

Gov Sununu didn’t pick any fights from the podium, but he was very clear:

“Look at the data. Revenues are rising. Costly regulations have been eliminated, and we are investing surplus funds into smart one-time investments.
I implore this legislature to learn from the mistakes of the past.  The last thing we should be doing is raising taxes or pushing a budget that does not live within our means.  And it should go without saying -There will be no sales or income tax of any kind on my watch.”

Sununu also used that rarely-heard word in energy-policy debates: “ratepayer.”

“I have always said we should view energy policy through the lens of the ratepayer.  And I hear a lot of talk from legislators that say YES, they will fight for lower electric rates, but then vote for legislation that raises rates and burden our citizens.  You can’t have it both ways.”

The irony is that Sununu has his own “both ways” policy on energy, calling for continued subsides of inefficient/expensive wind/solar, but targeted to benefit low-income residents.

“The Office of Strategic Initiatives and Public Utility Commission are currently working out a plan for the multi-million-dollar Clean Energy Fund which is being made available this year.  I want to see renewable energy projects for low income families and communities to be a priority for those investment dollars.”

Not exactly the policy of a full-throated free marketer, but a politically-smart position for a Republican who just survived a #BlueWave in a purple state and doesn’t want to lose a job he loves.

[To read Gov. Sununu’s entire prepared text, click here.]

Eric Holder Targets New Hampshire In Anti-GOP Gerrymandering Push

A progressive group led by former Attorney General–and possible 2020 POTUS contender– Eric Holder announced this weekend it’s targeting the Granite State in its push to “stop or prevent” what it calls “Republican gerrymandering.” This despite the fact that Democrats just took control of both houses of the New Hampshire legislature.

In a post on their website, the National Democratic Re-Districting Committee revealed the map of states they will be targeting in 2019 and 2020 as part of their efforts at what they call re-districting reform.  “During the 2019-2020 election cycle, the NDRC is targeting 12 states, including 3 gubernatorial races, 13 state legislative chambers, and one down-ballot race,” the NDRC says.

One of those governors is New Hampshire Republican Chris Sununu.

In fact, despite claims by Holder that his efforts at the NDRC are non-partisan (“We’ll go after Democrats if they try to gerrymander, too,” he said during a stop at St. Anselm College in June), all three of the governors his group is targeting are Republicans.  All of the legislatures on the NDRC list are controlled by the GOP, too, with the singular exception of Minnesota, where control of the legislature is split.

(from the NDRC website)


“They’re all states where we need to stop or prevent Republican gerrymandering,” the NDRC says.

One of the biggest promoters of Holder’s efforts here in New Hampshire has been Colin Van Ostern, the one-time Democratic campaign worker and gubernatorial candidate who’s now lobbying to replace Secretary of State Bill Gardner.  Having a partisan ally as the chief elections officer in the Granite State would be a boon to Holder and the NDRC.

It’s also likely to raise more questions about the wisdom of having an openly-partisan Secretary of State replace Gardner, who has earned praise from both sides of the aisle for his nonpartisan approach to the job.