Sununu social policy could ignite conservative challenge in governor’s race

  • Free Stater Aaron Day told the “Monitor” on Friday that he “think(s) Sununu has apparently adopted a strategy to completely abandon the conservative elements of his party.” Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 5/25/2018 3:12:14 PM

Despite high poll numbers and several policy wins this legislative session, Gov. Chris Sununu could face some unrest from disgruntled social-conservatives as he runs for re-election.

The first-term governor is facing the prospect of a gubernatorial run from a conservative third party candidate who may have siphoned enough votes to sink GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s 2016 re-election bid.

“I think Sununu has apparently adopted a strategy to completely abandon the conservative elements of his party,” Free Stater Aaron Day told the Monitor on Friday.

Sununu, New Hampshire’s first Republican governor in a dozen years, enjoys a 65 percent approval rating among Granite Staters in a recent Saint Anselm College Survey Center poll, with a 89 percent approval among Republicans.

And Sununu stands at 59 percent approval overall and 81 percent among GOP voters in a recent University of New Hampshire survey.

But he may face some pushback from those on the right over two bills he’s about to sign into law.

One of them is the transgender equality bill, which bans discrimination based on gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations, in addition to the protections that already exist based on race, sex, religion and sexual orientation.

Some conservatives took issue with the measure’s public accommodation provision, which they argued amounts to a violation of privacy.

At a recent closed-door meeting of some conservative leaders, Republican state Rep. Al Baldasaro spoke out against the governor’s intention to sign the legislation.

“I think he’s doing a great job, but why he’s catering to some of these issues that are going to affect everyday children who are playing sports and using locker-room and bathrooms,” the firebrand lawmaker from Londonderry told the Monitor on Friday.

Baldasaro said Sununu’s support of the transgender bill will hurt him with social conservative voters.

“I think it’s going to have a major effect,” he said. “I’ve been warning him. I just got a text yesterday from one of my constituents saying they’re going to leave his name blank.”

Steve Duprey said he doesn’t think too many conservatives will jump off the Sununu ship this November, when he’s up for a second two-year term in the Corner Office.

“Chris Sununu has been a fabulous governor. The results are evident: A strong economy, a smart budget, good appointments to key positions. And while no one is 100 percent satisfied with every decision the governor makes, he has broad, wide and deep support in the Republican Party,” argued Duprey, a veteran committee member of the Republican National Committee and a former longtime New Hampshire GOP chairman.

“While he might not appeal to some on the far edge of conservatism, most will agree he has done a terrific job and will be re-elected,” Duprey added.

One person who definitely doesn’t share such rosy feelings is Day, who’s considering a run for governor this year.

Criticizing Sununu over his support of the bill to extend the state’s Medicaid Expansion program for another five years, he argued that “he’s alienated that base.”

Day ran for U.S. Senate in 2016 as an independent candidate, capturing nearly 18,000 votes. Many Republicans still blame him for GOP incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s re-election loss by just over 1,000 votes to Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan in the Senate showdown.

The debate continues over whether Day drained more votes from Ayotte (who had separate issues, such as breaking with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump in the weeks before the November 2016 election over the Access Hollywood video controversy), or from Libertarian Party nominee Brian Chabot, who came in fourth, behind Hassan, Ayotte and Day.

Day says he if runs for governor, he’ll do so as a Libertarian.

“I abandoned entirely the Republican Party. The question now is there an opportunity here with the Libertarian Party to start building an actual viable alternative,” he explained.

“I’m trying to put together a plan and the resources to make sure that I can run a viable campaign,” Day said. “My exploration is evolving.”

Day, who has until June 15 to file his candidacy for governor, said the real question right now is “can we put in place the campaign infrastructure and resources to make this a real race?”

He touted that he has 50 volunteers already signed up and described the response as “a lot more positive that I expected.”

Day said if he runs, he’ll attack Sununu and the GOP majority leadership in the State House over their support of Medicaid expansion.

“I expected the Republicans to at least be fiscally conservative. That turns out – when they have complete majorities – not to be the case,” he argued.

“I’m sounding the alarm, saying ‘guys, we’re headed towards a fiscal cliff.’ ”

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