Oct 26, 2016 5:43 PM

Sununu, Van Ostern target each other in hours before NH1 News gubernatorial debate

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD – Hours ahead of an NH1 News prime time gubernatorial debate, Republican nominee Chris Sununu and fellow executive councilor and Democratic nominee Colin Van Ostern traded fire over their resumes and a controversial contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock to staff New Hampshire Hospital.

WATCH THE DEBATE LIVE HERE

Sununu came under attack in the morning by the New Hampshire Democratic Party over a new campaign ad where he touts his record the past six years as CEO of the Waterville Valley Resort. In his 14 month long campaign for governor, Sununu has often highlighted his business experience running the resort.

“As CEO of Waterville Valley, I've expanded the business and created hundreds of good paying jobs,” Sununu says in the new television commercial that’s currently running on Granite State airwaves.

But NHDP chairman Ray Buckley, citing a recent report from New Hampshire Public Radio that the resort lost jobs during Sununu’s tenure, kicked off a news conference Wednesday morning by saying “we’re here today to discuss Chris Sununu’s failed business record and his attempts to mislead the public about Waterville Valley’s true performance.”

“This new ad that he has up is simply a lie and he needs to take it down,” Buckley charged.

Speaking to NH1 News a couple of hours later, during a break in the Executive Council meeting, Van Ostern also took aim at Sununu.

“Independent reports have made it quite clear that there are in fact fewer people employed at Waterville Valley than when Chris Sununu’s family bought it for him to manage and I don’t think it’s appropriate for Chris to be claiming to create jobs when in fact he has cut jobs.”

“I do think it’s important for him to be honest with people about the real record of mismanagement there,” Van Ostern added.

Responding, Sununu told NH1 News “I’ve created hundreds of jobs. That is not even in question.”

“Creating jobs is what I’ve done. Other politicians can talk about it. I have done it. I have a record on it. And Waterville Valley has been incredibly successful. We just invested another two million dollars in expansion this year,” he added.

While defending his business credentials, Sununu often underscores that Van Ostern served for a decade as a Democratic political strategist.

Contract controversy

Sununu also took aim at Van Ostern over the Dartmouth-Hitchcock contract.

Last month Dartmouth Hitchcock announced that it would potentially lay off hundreds of employees by the end of the year. That announcement came just two days after all five executive councilors voted ago to approve the three-year contract with Dartmouth Hitchcock, which was the only bidder to take over operations of New Hampshire Hospital in Concord. That vote came amid rising concerns of staffing shortages at the facility.

Since then, Sununu’s urged that the contract be rebid. Van Ostern opposes such a move.

On Wednesday, Sununu highlighted the campaign contributions Van Ostern’s received from Dartmouth-Hitchcock and employees who work at the medical provider, and suggested that those contributions may have influenced Van Ostern’s position on the contract.

“He’s received $50,000, an unprecedented level of money, from this organization. I think it calls into questions of ethics, morality, of conflict of interest. All of which he has to answer for. This is very serious stuff,” Sununu charged. “We’re talking about an unprecedented amount of money. Fifty-thousand dollars. I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

“I’ve been wondering why Colin hasn’t said anything over the past few months. Why he sat on his hands. Why he’s accepted this mismanagement out of the governor’s office, the department of health and human services. It is mismanagement and he’s said nothing,” Sununu continued.

Van Ostern countered that “the truth is Chris and I both voted on that same contract one month ago. He has taken thousands of dollars for Dartmouth employees as well. The difference is I am not going to put politics ahead of what’s right for patients.”

Asked about those contributions, Sununu told NH1 News “we’ve had a couple of small contributions from individuals. But again I’m the one calling for action at Dartmouth Hitchcock. I’m not the one who took $50,000, it’s an unprecedented amount of money. So yeah, we’ve taken contributions from various groups all over the state but at no time has any of that money influenced my vote. At no time has any of that money influenced how I acted on the council.”

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