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Capital Beat: Where in the world is Gov. Chris Sununu? 

  • New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (left) and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard speak to the audience at a foreign relations luncheon Monday in Montreal. Sununu was in Quebec to discuss the economic relationship between New Hampshire and Canada, and meet with business, political and community leaders. Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press via AP

  • New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, left, greets Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard after being introduced at a foreign relations luncheon Monday, March 20, 2017 in Montreal. Sununu is in Quebec to discuss the economic relationship between the two and meet with business, political and community leaders.(Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

  • New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, left, and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard speak to the audience at a foreign relations luncheon, Monday, March 20, 2017 in Montreal. Sununu is in Quebec to discuss the economic relationship between the two and meet with business, political and community leaders.(Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)



Monitor staff
Saturday, March 25, 2017

When former-Gov. Maggie Hassan traveled outside New Hampshire, the state Republican party almost always had something to say about it.

The party filed right-to-know requests seeking Hassan’s monthly travel schedule and questioned whether she was properly alerting the Senate president, who takes over in the governor’s absence.

Last week, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu left the state twice; once to visit Canada, his first international trip since taking office, and then for an overnight in Washington D.C. But the public hardly got wind of either.

Sununu didn’t make the public aware he was in another country until the morning of his meeting with the Quebec Premier, leaving residents and the press no time to get there and hear his remarks, which included another push for Northern Pass.

He jetted down to Washington D.C. on Wednesday night for a “private non-political event,” which his office declined to further explain. He capped off the visit by meeting with his predecessor – now U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan. A press release sent out by his office that morning was the first public notice he was out of the state.

Facing a question from reporters last week, Sununu denied the late notice on Canada was intentional to avoid press or public scrutiny.

“I am not worried about headlines,” he said. “If we could have given more notice – the schedule was quiet fluid up until the end.”

It’s not clear when the meeting with Hassan came together.

Senate President Chuck Morse was aware Sununu would be absent on both occasions, he said.

“The governor should notify me and the public when he is leaving,” said Morise, a Salem Republican. “He’s traveling a lot for the benefit of the state right now.”

But what exactly that means is not clear because neither Morse nor Sununu would say.

Sununu spokesman Dave Abrams wouldn’t describe the “private non-political event,” or say whether Sununu attended as the governor or as a private citizen. He also wouldn’t say whether Sununu made the 24-hour trip to the nation’s capital on taxpayers’ dime, which would be information the public has a right to know.

During his first 100 days in office, Sununu pledged to meet with 100 businesses, which is perhaps what he was up to. Sununu told reporters last Wednesday he went early to Canada, where he got to “meet countless businesses.” The Republican has so far declined to name any companies outright, saying it’s inappropriate to publicly discuss private businesses’s strategies. But the Republican has said he has spoken with companies from China to Massachusetts. Maybe D.C. was the latest stop.

Pay it back

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas got ahead of himself in his recent run for governor, and it turned out to be a costly error. The state Democratic party filed a complaint that Gatsas had spent $68,000 in campaign funds he raised specifically for the general election. The problem – Gatsas never made it past the Republican primary. Gatsas is refunding the campaign contributions out of his personal account, he said in a letter sent to the attorney general’s office last week. Must be nice to have $68,000 lying around.

Old v new

Budgets are all about priorities – and this year the fight is shaping up to be one of old versus young.

Sununu, the country’s youngest governor at 42 years old, has prioritized spending that would attract young families with children, such as full-day kindergarten and college scholarship programs. But House budget writers are poised to axe that spending in favor of property tax relief for cities and towns, to help ease the burden on the state’s oldest residents. The average age in that chamber is around 61.

The dueling visions don’t split cleanly along party lines, so much as ones of age. Democrats have long pushed full-day kindergarten funding, and are lining up behind Sununu’s plan. The budget has not made its way to the Senate yet, but the chamber voted 22-1 in favor of full-day kindergarten funding, before laying the policy on the table.

Election time

Merrimack County will likely have two special elections this summer, to fill a vacant Concord House seat and the Senate seat representing Bow, Dunbarton and Hooksett. Democratic Rep. Andy deTreville stepped down, leaving the Concord Ward 9 seat vacant. An election will be held July 18.

The Executive council has a few weeks to name the date for a special election to fill the District 16 Senate seat. Democratic Sen. Scott McGilvray died last week.

Leaving the news

A familiar face in the political scene is stepping back. Josh McElveen is leaving WMUR to take a job with Dartmouth-Hitchcock as Vice President for Communications and Marketing. He starts April 3.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)