On the trail: Cavanaugh aiming to make jump from NH Senate to Executive Council

  • Kevin Cavanaugh (right) shakes hands with Kenneth McDonald of Manchester. Caitlin Andrews

  • State Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh from Manchester takes a selfie while social distancing befor the senate session at the Representatives Hall at the State House on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER

For the Monitor
Published: 5/21/2022 5:23:38 PM
Modified: 5/21/2022 5:23:19 PM

Democratic state Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh says Republican Executive Councilor Ted Gatsas has moved too far to the right.

“That’s why I’m running,” Cavanaugh told the Monitor the day after he announced his bid for the five-member council, which serves as New Hampshire’s elected board of directors and has the final say in the governor’s judicial and executive branch nominations and state contracts.

Cavanaugh is running to represent the newly reapportioned Executive Council District 4, which includes the city of Manchester and numerous towns, including Hooksett, Bow, Pembroke, Loudon and Chichester.

Gatsas, who served for nearly a decade in the state Senate and eight years as Manchester mayor, has represented the Executive Council’s District 4 since his election in 2018.

Cavanaugh acknowledged that Gatsas has “a lot of name recognition, but I look forward to meeting a lot of people and persuading them away.”

Republicans currently hold a 4-1 majority on the council, and Cavanaugh pointed to votes the past couple of years by the council to reject federal funding for COVID vaccinations and defund Planned Parenthood.

“I just don’t agree with some of the votes,” he said.

“From rejecting federal aid in order to end the pandemic to defunding family planning services, this Executive Council has put politics above public health,” Cavanaugh said in a statement. “It is clear that a new voice is needed on the Executive Council who will put people first.”

Cavanaugh, who also has represented Manchester’s Ward 1 on the city’s Board of Alderman since 2015, is a retired union worker and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 2320.

Despite his union background, Cavanaugh said he makes his own decisions and is not beholden to unions or special interests.

“I’m beholden to working families 100%,” Cavanaugh told the Monitor. “I look at my record as an alderman in Manchester and in the Senate and I’m proud of the work I’ve done for working families.”

Longtime New England College-based political scientist Wayne Lesperance noted the council was “historically a very quiet and sleepy” place, but “that all seems to be changing, which may be a reflection of divided politics, but it also may be a reflection of another pathway to gain prominence.”

The 2016 gubernatorial general election was a battle between two sitting councilors, with now-Gov. Chris Sununu edging Democrat Colin Van Ostern.

Two years later, Democratic councilor Chris Pappas won election to the U.S House of Representatives in the state’s 1st Congressional District. And in 2020, councilor Andru Volinsky, who succeeded Van Ostern, ran for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

But if he has statewide ambitions, Cavanaugh isn’t expressing them.

Asked about a potential run for governor down the road, he said, “I’m just concentrating on running for this office.”

Morse heading to border

State Senate President Chuck Morse is heading to the U.S.-Mexico border on Monday, becoming the latest New Hampshire politician to make the trek amid a steady surge of migrants aiming to enter the country.

Morse announced that he’ll lead a delegation of four New Hampshire sheriffs to tour the southern border in and around McAllen, Texas, in his official capacity as state Senate president. Morse was invited to tour the border by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas.

Morse will be at the border on Monday, the day the Biden administration is expected to officially rescind a Trump-era coronavirus pandemic restriction known as Title 42, which allowed officials to rapidly expel asylum seekers that crossed the border.

“New Hampshire is not immune to the consequences of our porous southern border. Over the past few years, drug cartels bringing fentanyl into our country from Mexico (have) increasingly become a major issue in the Northeast, where we have seen skyrocketing numbers of overdoses and deaths,” Morse said in a statement.

Besides serving as state Senate president, Morse is also one of the leading contenders for the GOP in the race to face off in November with former governor and Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan.

Hassan made a well-publicized trip to the border early last month, where she highlighted her serious concerns about the move by the Biden administration to sunset Title 42. Hassan was one of the first high-profile Democrats in Congress to break with the White House over its border security move.

Former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith, who’s also running for the GOP Senate nomination, has also visited the border, as has Gail Huff Brown, one of the Republican candidates in New Hampshire’s First Congressional District who’s hoping to take on Pappas in November’s midterms.

Scott coming to NH

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is the reelection arm of the Senate GOP, remains optimistic that Hassan can be ousted in November.

Scott, a former two-term Florida governor, was expected to meet with Morse and possibly some of the other Senate candidates Friday evening in Newport, as he was set to headline the Sullivan County GOP’s annual Lincoln Reagan fundraising dinner.

Republicans – including Scott – worked hard last year to recruit GOP Gov. Chris Sununu to challenge Hassan, but the popular governor announced in November that he would seek re-election rather than launch a Senate bid. Scott remains optimistic that, even without an A-list candidate, Hassan is still beatable.

“I doubt anybody thought I was an A-lister when I ran in my primary in 2010,” said Scott, who was a health care executive when he first ran for Florida governor over a decade ago.

Hassan is one of the GOP’s top targets this year as Republicans work to win back the Senate majority.

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