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Concord’s Volinsky jumps into governor’s race

For the Monitor
Published: 10/23/2019 8:04:40 AM

Democratic Executive Councilor AndruVolinsky, an outspoken critic of Gov. Chris Sununu, is running for governor.

“I want to create jobs. I want to fully fund our schools. I want to save the environment and I want to treat New Hampshire's taxpayers fairly,” Volinksy said in announcements on social media, email, and in a video.

“Making meaningful change is never easy, but if we have honest conversations about the real challenges facing New Hampshire, I know we can build a state that works for all of us and I know we can do it together,” the longtime Concord resident said.

Volinsky, a general counsel at the Bernstein Shur law firm in Manchester, was best known for years in the Granite State as the lead attorney for the victorious plaintiffs in the historic Claremont school district funding lawsuit two decades ago. He is the second Democrat to jump into the gubernatorial contest.

State Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes – a fellow Democrat from Concord – announced his candidacy at the beginning of last month. The winner of next September’s primary will face off in the November 2020 general election against two-term Republican Governor Sununu.

Volinsky cited some of his opposition to Sununu during his two-terms on the five-member Executive Council.

“I fought off the worst of Sununu’s crony appointments of unqualified candidates,” Volinsky said.

At age 63, Volinsky said it was time for him to run for the state’s top office. 

“I think now it’s time to take what I’ve learned as a counselor combined with my 40 years of experience as a trial lawyer and a business lawyer, and put my experience to work for the people of New Hampshire,” he said.

In addition to his experience as lead attorney for the victorious plaintiffs in the Claremont school district funding lawsuit, Volinsky represented Dover in that city’s lawsuit against New Hampshire over the state’s cap on adequacy money to school districts three years ago.

It should come as no surprise that Volinsky cited education as a top issue in his bid for the corner office.

“I’ve worked hard making sure that every child in New Hampshire gets a shot at a good education. I’ve worked on that for almost 30 years and it’s time to finally bring that issue forward, make it front and center, and really encourage the conversation of how to make that a reality for kids from Berlin to Nashua and from Keene to Rochester,” he said.

Volinsky contrasted himself to Sununu. 

“My approach to education is more than a matter of delivering phony oversized checks that the governor actually fought against prior to adopting his check delivery practice,” Volinsky said

Sununu has been criticized in recent weeks by Democrats for handing out ceremonial checks to municipalities for additional state funding from the budget compromise, with much of it for education. Democrats argue Sununu was taking credit for funding he previously tried to cut.

Volinsky discussed visiting his two-year-old grandson to emphasize why climate change is another top issue for his campaign.

“I view climate change and the environmental crises going on really as a grandfather and a dad and I think we’re beyond half measures, that we ought not to invest in fossil fuel pipelines and generation facilities and that we need to take on the interests of attacking climate change in New Hampshire,” he explained.

He added that “income inequality is one of the greatest threats to democracy.”

“We’re a very wealthy state,” Volinsky said. “On average we do well but I know there are a lot of people struggling and it’s those struggles that we need to understand and lift up and address.”

Volinsky said if elected, the first two things on his to-do list would be to appoint “someone to coordinate the discussion on school funding, and move that discussion forward.”

Volinsky will join Feltes in running for their party’s nomination.

The 40-year old Feltes, who was first elected to the state Senate in 2014, last year became the chamber’s youngest ever majority leader. His campaign noted that over the past seven weeks, he’s been endorsed by seven state senators, over 75 state representatives, two major labor unions, 2016 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former executive councilor Colin Van Ostern, and clean water advocate, former state Rep. MindiMessmer, a 2018 congressional candidate who’s now running for the Executive Council.

Volinsky, in his video, cherished what may be an underdog candidacy for the nomination.

“Believe it or not, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a football player. I didn't care that I was always the smallest kid on the field. I understand what it is like to be the underdog. That's why I fought for fair school funding in the nineties. It's why I've stayed involved and it's why I ran for the executive council. Now I want to take that spirit to the Governor's Office,” he said.

Volinsky said the differences between Feltes and himself will become clear moving forward.

One area of difference could be the traditional pledge by gubernatorial candidates to veto any broad-based tax as governor. Feltes has taken the pledge.

Volinsky has said he will not take the pledge, but also noted he would not immediately seek an income tax.

The field of two Democratic gubernatorial candidates could expand in the coming months.

Former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, who ran unsuccessfully for the 2016 and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominations, is mulling a third straight run. He is currently serving as a senior adviser on tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign.

Another possible contender could be Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, who’s running in November for re-election to a second term steering New Hampshire’s largest city. Some national and state Democrats see Craig as a strong challenger to Sununu. Craig’s she’s “not considering” a gubernatorial run.

Whomever wins the nomination will face off against Sununu – one of the nation’s most po pular governor’s according to public opinion polling. He announced in May that he would run for a third two-year term steering the Granite State rather than launch a GOP challenge against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

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