Gatsas-Sununu face off in person in showdown over drug crisis controversy
WINDHAM – Executive Councilor Chris Sununu and Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas met in person Sunday for the first since Gatsas demanded that his rival for the Republican gubernatorial nomination apologize for comments Sununu made about the heroin and opioid epidemic.
The controversy ignited on Wednesday when Sununu, talking about the response to the drug crisis, told reporters “we’ve had no leadership in Concord, no leadership at the local level.”
After Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard took to Twitter to call the comments “idiotic,” Gatsas demanded that Sununu apologize to the police and firefighters of New Hampshire’s largest city.
On Saturday, in an email release, Gatsas said “I intend to personally approach Councilor Sununu at tomorrow’s Windham GOP Cookout to reiterate my call for an apology and to talk with him about the success of Manchester’s Safe Station program.”
Safe Station opens Manchester’s fire stations to drug addicts in need of immediate assistance.
The two candidates met and quietly talked at the event in Windham.
After they chatted, Gatsas told NH1 News “the men and women of the Manchester Police department are waiting for an apology.”
Asked if he asked Sununu to apologize, Gatsas told NH1 News "I did, I said ‘I would love and sit and chat with you about our safe station program’ and he said ‘yeah, I'll get back to you’."
Speaking with NH1 News, Sununu said "I stand behind my statement 100%. My statement was very clear. I called for better leadership both on the state and local level.”
“The statement had clearly nothing to do with the police or fire fighters. The first responders that are out there risking their lives every day. It had no implication on them for obvious reasons. There are those who want to politicize and misrepresent what I said,” Sununu added.
"I wouldn't apologize for something I didn't say. If you read the statement it clearly had nothing to do with fire fighters or police of first responders. That was a complete misrepresentation of what I said. The statement was very clear. I was talking about the local officials. The local elected officials, the state elected officials. We all have to take responsibility in this. We all have to take responsibility in this,” he continued.
In his speech to the crowd, Sununu targeted Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who’s running for the U.S. Senate this year rather than for a third term in the Corner Office.
Sununu fired away saying “it truly is the opioid crisis in this state. And again, Gov. Hassan has failed this state. I am tired of career politicians like Gov. Hassan coming around and telling you the status quo is okay and we've solved the problem. We are losing this war on drugs, we are losing this war on drugs, we have to be much more aggressive about our prevention programs in schools."
In his speech to the audience, Gatsas touted his efforts in fighting the drug crisis.
“This campaign is going to be about leadership, things that we've done in the city that we're going to bring attention to make people understand that we've lead in an awful lot of things, especially this fentanyl crisis that’s a crisis throughout this state."
“Since May 4,125 people have reported to the stations in Manchester to get help,” Gatsas added.