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On the trail: He took his time, but Volinsky eventually feels the Bern

For the Monitor
Published: 12/26/2019 4:29:47 PM

Executive councilor Andru Volinsky was a top Granite State supporter, surrogate, state legal counsel, and presidential convention delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders in his 2016 White House campaign.

But the Democrat from Concord, well-known attorney, and 2020 gubernatorial candidate had remained neutral in the wide-open race for the Democratic presidential nomination – until now.

The Monitor on Thursday learned that Volinsky – after taking a hard look at some of the Democratic White House hopefuls – will once again back the independent senator from Vermont in New Hampshire’s presidential primary.

“The reason I delayed in making an endorsement is I think we in New Hampshire have an awesome opportunity and an awesome responsibility to work carefully with presidential candidates in the first-in-the-nation primary. And to be honest, I kicked the tires with a number of campaigns in the state. There are a number that are very, very good,” Volinsky explained in an interview.

But he emphasized that “on the policy issues that I care most about – income inequality, climate change, health care, education – I just think that the Sanders campaign has had a consistent position and is advancing that position in a very thoughtful and careful way in this campaign and so although I spent time with a number of the other campaigns, I kept coming back to Sanders and I think that’s where I belong and I am pleased and privileged to endorse Sanders for president.”

Sanders – once a long-shot – crushed former U.S. Secretary of State, senator, and first lady Hillary Clinton in the state’s 2016 Democratic presidential primary – launching him into a marathon battle with the eventual nominee. And as the populist senator ran for president, he pushed a number of progressive policies – such as Medicare-for-all – helping to turn them from extreme to mainstream goals for the Democratic Party.

But the 2020 primary battle is a very different race than 2016 – with an extremely crowded field and other candidates – including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts – advocating many of the same proposals first pushed by Sanders four years earlier.

Volinsky, who as a 30-year-old successfully argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, was for years best known in the Granite State as the lead attorney for the victorious plaintiff school districts in the historic Claremont school district funding lawsuit two decades ago. In 2016, he represented Dover in that city’s lawsuit against New Hampshire over the state’s cap on adequacy money to school districts.

The progressive advocate was elected to the five-member Executive Council in 2016 – representing a district that stretches from Keene to Concord to Rochester and Dover. He was re-elected in 2018.

The vocal critic of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu announced his candidacy for governor in October, joining New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes.

In a statement obtained by the Monitor, which will be released on Friday – Volinsky said that voters “deserve a president who will put working families first. We need a president who will stand with the people as we face the major issues of our time, from confronting climate change with the Green New Deal to making sure no family is left behind by leading on Medicare for All.”

And pointing to Sanders’ push for a “political revolution,” Volinsky stressed that “I believe this election requires a movement; a powerful culmination of honest conversations between people that unite our shared values in the face of overwhelming division stoked by Donald Trump, Chris Sununu, and their acolytes.”

Volinsky plans to officially back Sanders when he teams up with the senator at a town hall in Lebanon at 1 p.m. on Friday.

Coming soon

With Christmas over, candidate traffic on the presidential campaign trail will heat up this weekend in New Hampshire and specifically in the Capital region.

After holding his town hall in Lebanon, Sanders heads to Concord on Friday, where he’ll hold a SEA (State Employees Association) Solidarity Rally at the Legislative Office Building (across from the State House) at 3:30 p.m.

Sanders returns to Concord on Saturday to headline a town hall hosted by Open Democracy Action and Equal Citizens, at 6 p.m. at Concord High School’s auditorium.

Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang returns to Concord on Tuesday, Dec. 31, for an early New Year’s Eve celebration at Chuck’s Barbershop at 90 Lowe Street at 5:30 p.m. Yang’s back in Concord at noon on Thursday, Jan. 2, to shoot hoops with students at the city’s high school.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is also in Concord on Jan. 2, headlining a 12:30 p.m. town hall at the Grappone Center that’s hosted by Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy.

And Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is in Concord at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 2, for a forum on civil liberties at UNH Law that’s hosted by the school of law and the ACLU of New Hampshire.

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