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Sununu becomes nation’s youngest governor, outlines first priorities in office

  • Executive Councilor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu speaks during an election night party at the Grappone Center in Concord on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Chris Sununu held a press conference at the Grappone Center on Wednesday after winning the governor’s race. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Chris Sununu held a press conference at the Grappone Center in Concord on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, after winning the governor's race. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Executive Councilor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu speaks during an election night party at the Grappone Center in Concord on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Wednesday, November 09, 2016

For the first time in 12 years, New Hampshire will have a Republican governor.

Maintaining a slim but steady lead on election night, Chris Sununu was declared the winner of the governor’s race in the early hours of the morning. The executive councilor beat Democrat Colin Van Ostern 49 to 47 percent – about 17,500 votes – with 97 percent of precincts reporting.

At age 42, Sununu will be the nation’s youngest governor. Sununu, a third-term executive councilor, worked as an environmental engineer for many years. He is the CEO of Waterville Valley Resort. He will replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The governor-elect held a press conference Wednesday, promising to cut business taxes and continue to work on the drug crisis, workforce and education issues, and New Hampshire’s energy needs.

“I think we all want to see as seamless of a transition as we can to make sure we’re addressing all the needs of the state and moving forward in as realistic and practical a manner as possible,” he said. “Campaigns are hard-fought . . . but as a state, we have to come together.”

Sununu promised bipartisan work on issues that are fast approaching, including balancing the state budget and passing Medicaid expansion.

“Being a good listener from the beginning is a top priority,” Sununu said. “Making sure we’re all on the same page, because if we’re fighting, pushing back on each other for six months in the legislative session, nothing’s going to get done.”

Sununu reiterated his campaign promise to bring more control back to the state, noting the state’s proposed Medicaid expansion plan was recently rejected by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“I take real issue with that,” Sununu said.

However, the governor-elect also offered areas where he would differ from the outgoing governor.

An outspoken critic of the state’s recent contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to run New Hampshire Hospital, Sununu said he would urge Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeff Meyers to re-bid the project.

Sununu also said he planned to step down as CEO of Waterville Valley next month, to avoid any future potential conflicts of interest. His family will continue to own the ski resort.

Van Ostern, a fellow executive councilor, did not make an appearance during his election night party, instead watching returns with his family and campaign staff in a closed room. He left his Radisson Hotel party about midnight without speaking to supporters or members of the press.

The Concord Democrat sent out a short concession statement early Wednesday morning, followed by a longer message to supporters on Facebook.

“I’m disappointed in the result, but I remain excited about the bright future we can build together for the people of New Hampshire,” Van Ostern said.

Van Ostern said he called Sununu on Wednesday morning to congratulate him and offer help as he begins his transition.

“I am rooting for his success in his work for the people of our state,” Van Ostern said, highlighting the policy areas he and the Republican agreed on during the campaign, including full-day kindergarten, lowering college costs, and support for paid family and sick leave.

Though Van Ostern is moving out of public life for now, he pledged to carry on his work in the private sector. His seat on the Executive Council will be taken by fellow Concord Democrat Andru Volinsky.

“We must move forward as one state,” Van Ostern wrote.

Speaking at his Wednesday press conference, Sununu seemed of a similar mind.

“We saw a lot of ugliness in this political season,” Sununu said. “I think we can agree we’ve all had enough of it. We need to set a very positive tone in the state of New Hampshire.”

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)