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Sep 29, 2015 10:23 PM

Steinhauser: Chris Sununu goes one-on-one with NH1 News on politics and policy

NH1 News Political Unit

CONCORD – Republican Executive Councilor Chris Sununu fired away at Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan on Tuesday, criticizing her role in this summer’s budget standoff and her performance in dealing with New Hampshire’s heroin epidemic.

And asked why the GOP’s lost nine of the last ten elections for the Corner Office, the first official candidate in next year’s gubernatorial contest, said “Republicans are great on the issues but sometimes we’re not the best campaigners.”

In a sit down interview Tuesday with NH1 News, Sununu said he would have immediately put his pen to the original budget hammered out by the Republican led state House and Senate.

“Very clearly I would have signed it on day one. That was a great budget. That was a great budget proposed by the Republicans. The governor played political games with this budget. And that was wrong. And what were the results? You had needy services, such as mental health and developmentally disabled, extra money that could have gone to the heroin crisis, which we’re dealing with and which you know I’ve very much been on the forefront of, those extra funds did not get spent, and they just sat and lapsed for three months. That is horrible mismanagement by the governor because she just wanted to play political games.”

Sununu them charged that Hassan “essentially gave in because she knew the budget was the right thing to do. We increased funding in all these different areas, we were able to cut business taxes, we were able to do a lot of things that we haven’t done in a long, long, time.”

Asked about Sununu’s comments, Hassan communications director William Hinkle told NH1 News that “Governor Hassan made clear that her central concern with Committee of Conference budget was that it included unpaid-for corporate tax cuts that would create a hole in future budgets at the expense of critical priorities like affordable higher education, combating the heroin crisis, modern and safe infrastructure and access to health care. The fiscally responsible, bipartisan compromise on the budget addressed that issue, including important safeguards that protect the state's long-term fiscal responsibility and ability to support critical priorities in future budgets.”

Heroin epidemic politics

Sununu was also critical of the governor over her handling of the Granite State’s heroin epidemic, saying that “the governor and her drug czar have been absolutely nonexistent on one of the most important crises this state has ever faced, and it’s shameful. I’ve been very, very, vocal on that because I think people ought to know what is going on and what is going on is nothing. This drug czar, it took him six months to even talk to the chief of police or the mayor of Manchester.”

“This governor goes around with her drug czar and has these round tables and discussions. They come up with a 22 point checklist of how to deal with the heroin epidemic. Nobody cares about a 22 point check list. People care about action. Kids are dying out there. It is a real, real, serious issue,” Sununu added.

Sununu said if he were in the Corner Office, he’d “put resources right on the front line, to law enforcement, to the cities and communities that are dealing with this right on the front lines. Second I’m a big believer in pre-treatment. We need to start talking to these kids of the severity of this issue before it becomes an issue. We need to get to them before the drugs do. And I’m not talking about 17 or 18 year olds, we need to start talking to 13 or 14 year olds. We need to engage the parents as part of that discussion.”

“On day one I’ll get in there, I’ll bring in a drug czar that knows what they’re doing, that can have a tangible results. We’re going to go to Washington, we’ve gotten a little money. We’re going to get more. And we’re going to put it right on the front lines,” he added.

Hinkle responded to Sununu’s comments, saying that “Governor Hassan is working every day to strengthen the state's efforts to combat the heroin and opioid crisis, with a comprehensive approach that is focused on prevention, treatment and recovery. Just today, she joined public health and public safety officials to announce a plan to distribute 4,500 Narcan kits statewide to increase access to this life-saving treatment to law enforcement and the families and loved ones of those at risk of an overdose.”

“As the Governor works to increase the safe and effective use of Narcan, she has also signed legislation to strengthen the state's prescription drug monitoring program and facilitate data-sharing with other states, and she continues to fight for the reauthorization of our bipartisan health care expansion plan, which experts say is the single most important step we can take to increase treatment capacity,” Hinkle added.

Read/Watch: NH to hand out overdose reversing drug

New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Aaron Jacobs also criticized Sununu, telling NH1 News that "Chris Sununu has absolutely zero credibility when it comes to combatting New Hampshire's substance abuse epidemic or fiscally responsible budgeting.”

“Not only did Sununu vote to block Medicaid expansion -- the single most important component of the state's efforts to combat substance abuse -- but he was also the only Executive Councilor to vote against hiring a drug czar for the state. And Sununu also pushed the Republican legislature to blow a massive hole in the budget at the expense of New Hampshire's economic future,” Jacobs added.

Sununu explains crucial vote

Sununu was the deciding vote on the Executive Council this summer to end the state’s contract with Planned Parenthood. Asked about his crucial vote, Sununu down played it, saying “I can honestly say I’ve never had a tough vote. I have a core set of philosophies I stick by. I sleep well after every single vote. I am a pro-choice candidate. I believe in a woman’s right to choose the best path for her family. I have supported Planned Parenthood in the past.”

But Sununu went on to say that “we have a group that is under investigation by the federal government for criminal activity. Any company, whether you’re a snow plow operator or you do landscaping with the state, any contract that would come before the state of New Hampshire with that type of ethical and legal scrutiny, we would never award that contract.”

“Now the Democrats like to tweet out things like I’m stopping women’s health care. No one’s losing any health care. No one’s losing anything. Planned Parenthood isn’t denying anyone at the doors. The vast majority of their money still comes from the federal government. We don’t control that. This was a small piece of state funds that were only put in two years ago. So for 30 years Planned Parenthood had no access to the funds that we just denied,” he added.

Sununu predicted that the attacks on him are going “to back fire on the Democrats.”

When it comes to attracting companies to the Granite State, Sununu, who’s the chief executive officer of the Waterville Valley resort, said the business tax cuts in the compromise budget were a good first step, but thinks more can be done.

“The way you grow revenue in this state is by attracting more business to come in, which then pays more revenue back into the state. It’s not just like increasing taxes and going for a money grab like the Democrats do. You need someone with business experience who understands the variables a business owner will take, and look at and understanding whether to grow or not.”

As you know I own a ski resort. I’m a massive energy user. My energy bill two years ago was over $1 million. Now I can’t pick up my mountain and move it out of state, nor would I ever want to do that. But the fact is we have a lot of businesses here that love New Hampshire, that want to be here. But until we get our energy crisis under control, really dropping those rates, we’re not going to be able to attract manufacturers in.”

Staying on the topic of energy, Sununu said “Northern Pass, Kinder Morgan, a couple of the other projects being proposed, they should all be on the table absolutely. The steps that they’ve taken with Northern Pass have been very positive, they’re burying more lines, that’s great. I think we all know that that project will go through a few more iterations, a few more changes. The site evaluation committee will start having their public hearings, they’ll be asking more questions and more things will be answered, so I look forward to seeing where that project ends up.”

As for Kinder Morgan, which has many residents in the path of the proposed pipeline up in arms, Sununu said “I love the concept of bringing more natural gas into New Hampshire. But people have to understand that right now none of that natural gas goes to baseload generation. It’s not going to power plants. It’s going to heat a lot of homes with clean cheap energy. That’s a very positive thing. The NIMBY stuff, the not in my back yard issues, I have to be honest I tend to put those aside a little bit. Until you get to the issues of eminent domain and things like that, that’s where the politics really has to get involved.”

Why he got in early

Sununu announced his bid for governor on September 7 at the Salem Republican Committee Labor Day Picnic, just a few miles from where he grew up. Asked if his early announcement was intended to dissuade other Republicans from launching gubernatorial bids, Sununu said “absolutely not. This is something I’ve been thinking about with my family, with my business, for quite some time. I’m a big believer that you have to get in early to these races, especially something like a gubernatorial race, cause you’ve got to give yourself time, time to meet people, talk about the issues, make sure people understand where you’re coming from, what your principles and philosophies are, what you’re trying to bring to the table. I just prefer to have more time to do that.”

Watch/Read: Sununu talks one-on-one with NH1 News on the day he announces

Sununu’s the younger brother former Sen. John E. Sununu and son of former three-term Gov. John H. Sununu. Asked how he’d differ from his father if he became governor, Sununu said “anyone who’s met my father and met me know there’s a difference right away. We have different personalities. We have different styles. I do go to my father for advice from time to time. Business advice. Political advice, whatever it is. But we really have our own styles.”

As for the GOP’s losing streak when it comes to winning Granite State gubernatorial elections, Sununu said “I think there’ve been some connectivity issues that we’ve had with the previous candidates. I’m very proud of the candidates that we’ve had, very good very smart men running for governor, it just hasn’t clicked, but that’s OK. Again that’s why I’m getting out there early trying to show myself to folks, meet with them one-on-one.”


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