Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfield, became the man in the middle of the raging controversy over whether to give state family planning contracts to Planned Parenthood

Aug 7, 2015 8:18 PM

NH1 News Political Report: August 6, 2015 - The must-read, weekly NH political tip sheet

CONCORD - So did Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, really have a choice? Given how the Planned Parenthood undercover video has become such a national GOP talking point, didn’t Sununu, who is pro-choice on abortion, have to vote to reject Planned Parenthood contracts here?

Politically, the answer is yes. The first folly is that somehow Sununu would surely be buying himself a GOP primary if he didn’t oppose Planned Parenthood. He backed the abortion provider back in 2011 and it didn’t cost him a primary opponent for his council seat either in 2012 or 2014.

And if he does run for governor next year, the nomination will not turn on whether he opposed Planned Parenthood contracts in August 2015. His pro-choice position would make him a target of abortion opponents next year no matter what his decision was on this issue.

Practically, the answer is no. The only possible out Sununu had would be to vote for the contracts on the basis that Planned Parenthood has always been a good provider in his district.

But to do that, Sununu would have had to get Gov. Maggie Hassan to agree to open a state investigation of Planned Parenthood to clear up any question that the provider here did not engage in the sale or even donation of any fetal tissue.

That was not going to happen. Hassan was as dug in backing Planned Parenthood as right to life backers on the council were determined to do them in.


Gov. Maggie Hassan’s most prominent political appointee stepped aside this week.

Her predecessor, four-term Democratic Gov. John Lynch resigned his seat on the University System Board of Trustees.

"Since my confirmation, I have become full-time at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth," Lynch said. "Because of that appointment, it has become very difficult to fully meet my responsibilities as a trustee."

For Lynch the seat on the board had him coming full circle since after all Lynch had been chairman of the trustee board right up until he stepped aside to run against and defeat sitting Republican Gov. Craig Benson in 2004.

Hassan, a former Exeter resident, turned to a prominent business and environmental figure in the region as the replacement nominee for Lynch, Wallace Stevens.

He is currently president of the Responsible Aquaculture Foundation which is an education and training organization and had served for eight years as executive director of the Global Aquaculture Alliance.

Prior to this Stevens was president of Slade Gorton and Ocean Products Inc., the latter a salmon aquaculture company.

If confirmed as expected, he would fill Lynch’s term that runs through June 2017.


After all the hullabaloo of a week ago, state drug czar Jack Wozmak got his permanent lease on life at least for the next four months.

The Executive Council approved accepting the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation grant to keep Wozmak on the payroll in the governor’s office through the end of December.

Curiously, Sununu was the lone vote against accepting the grant.

That’s perhaps a response to both the push back he received from the governor’s office on Planned Parenthood plus the Democratic attacks against Sununu for having voted against this same grant when it first came up in November 2014.


The fiscally-conservative Americans for Prosperity upping the ante in the ad war for Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, and against Gov. Hassan.

The latest is a $1 million ad buy by AFP, the 30-second commercial entitled, "Cherish Freedom" that slams Hassan’s latest attempt at a compromise state budget.

The commercial points out Hassan vetoed the Republican-led state budget that would have cut the state’s two main taxes on business.

It goes on to claim "Now she wants to raise taxes on small business."

In fact, Hassan’s latest compromise budget plan would cut the same two taxes that were in the Republican budget plan, the tax on corporate profits and on business activity though the cut for the second tax would be smaller and limited only to the smallest of companies.

“Kelly Ayotte has always put her special interest backers like the Koch brothers first, so it’s no surprise that the Koch brothers are continuing to do Ayotte’s dirty work with more dishonest attacks against Gov. Hassan, whom they desperately fear as a potential opponent,” said Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley in a statement.

"The Koch brothers are clearly trying to help Republicans in the legislature turn New Hampshire into a financial and economic mess with unpaid-for corporate tax giveaways like they did to states like Kansas.”

AFP Director Greg Moore stands by the ad pointing out Hassan’s latest plan would raise state revenue by nearly $100 million and include raising the state tax on cigarettes and the annual cost to register a car or truck.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee maintains AFP’s backing for Ayotte now totals $2.7 million and we’re still nearly 15 months out from her re-election.

"It’s clear that billionaires like the Koch Brothers know Kelly Ayotte will always put them before New Hampshire and that’s why they’ve spent an unprecedented $2.7 million in the Granite State more than a year before the election," DSCC Communications Director Justin Barasky

"Democrats look forward to running a strong campaign against Kelly Ayotte and her special interest friends and turning this seat blue in 2016.”


Health and Human Services Commissioner Nick Toumpas got to breathe a huge sigh of relief at week’s end.

That’s because a lot of fancy footwork and skillful negotiation prevented the state’s massive Medicaid managed care contract from completely falling apart.

As recently as a few weeks ago it was clear the Executive Council was going to reject this contract that moves all those on Medicaid into managed care under one of the state’s two vendors.

Leaders of the state’s 10 community mental health centers maintained that many if not most of them could be put out of business by the low rates the firms were going to pay them.

Toumpas and Co., however, got it back on track by getting all the parties - community health centers and the vendors - to agree to a memorandum of understanding that they would work on a future rate-setting structure they all can live with.

This hardly means the controversy has gone away but again it was looking as if the entire contract - the largest in state history - was going to go south.


Co-Quotes of the Week:

"And what do the women in your district, the women in our town do while we wait because politics have intervened?" - Gov. Maggie Hassan fires at Republican Councilor and fellow Newfields resident Chris Sununu regarding his opposition to awarding contracts to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

"I guess I am wondering why we are so willing to take an exception for Planned Parenthood when under other circumstances we might say, hmm, these guys are under criminal investigation, let’s maybe take a step back.’’ - Councilor Sununu’s comeback to Hassan.


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