Ohio Gov. John Kasich endorses Executive Councilor Chris Sununu's bid for governor, in Concord on August 29, 2016

Aug 29, 2016 11:55 PM

Sununu says questions regarding investor's alleged terror ties 'slanderous allegations'

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – On Monday, Chris Sununu fired back.

The three-term executive councilor and Republican gubernatorial candidate forcefully responded to questions regarding a major investor in the Sununu controlled Waterville Valley Resort who as once investigated alleged ties to terrorists.

The story, first reported late last week by Politico, put the Virginia-based SAFA trust, which owns a small percentage of the ski resort, in the spotlight due to a past investigation into whether the charity was funneling money to Islamic terrorists. The charity’s executive, Yacub Mirza, has also donated to Sununu’s gubernatorial campaign.

Asked about the report at a news conference Monday at the Legislative Office Building in Concord, Sununu said “that has all been completely discredited. Even the government got involved and completely discredited it. So there’s absolutely nothing there.”

“I try my best to leave that stuff alone, where it belongs in the garbage,” Sununu added.

Sununu charged that targeting Mirza comes close to bigotry, saying “they’re slanderous frankly bordering on racism to be blunt about it.”

Sununu, who often touts that Waterville Valley’s investors are local, acknowledged that SAFA’s not a local group, but offered that “the Sununu’s have the controlling stake there. All of the investors are friends and family, they’re locals, they’re attached to Waterville Valley.”

Sununu took questions after being formally endorsed at the event by Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The former Republican presidential candidate weighed in on the controversy, saying “we have to be careful in this county that we are not exploiting politics of fear.”

“I think this matter had been laid to rest. And I hope it will be laid to rest and we don’t want to see campaigns spiral into name calling,” Kasich added.

Sununu digs at Gatsas over fundraising

On a separate issue, Sununu was asked by NH1 News about his lackluster campaign fundraising report, with was released last week. Sununu’s campaign reported raising $646,000 since forming last Labor Day, with $224,000 cash on hand. Sununu was outraised in the GOP gubernatorial nomination race by Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, who hauled in just over $1 million. Gatsas has $551,000 cash on hand.

“We have the resources we need to get this done. We’re exactly where we wanted to be. We’re leading in this race. We’ve led from the beginning. We still lead today,” Sununu told NH1 News.

Last week Gatsas, who delivered his fundraising report in person and spoke with reporters, criticized Sununu’s campaign cash haul. Monday, Sununu returned the favor.

“My race begins and ends with people. Right. It’s not about holding press conferences on how much money you have. That isn’t New Hampshire,” Sununu said.

Besides Sununu and Gatsas, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester and state Rep. Frank Edelblut are also running for the nomination. The four candidates will face off Wednesday evening in a NH1 News debate at 8pm.

With Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan challenging U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte rather than running for re-election, the race for the Corner Office is wide open.

Executive Councilor Colin Van Oster, Mark Connolly, who served nearly a decade as the state’s top financial watchdog, and former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand are running for the Democratic nomination.

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