Executive Council D2: Warmington wins among Dems; Beard takes GOP race

  • Leah Plunkett

  • Craig Thompson

  • Emmett Soldati

  • Cinde Warmington

  • Jay Surdukowski

  • Stewart Levenson

  • James Beard

  • Cinde Warminton gives a thumbs up while standing outside the West Street Wardhouse in Concord on Tuesday, September 7, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 9/8/2020 11:07:55 PM

Concord attorney Cinde Warmington appears to have beaten UNH law school associate dean Leah Plunkett for the Democratic nomination to replace Andru Volinsky on the Executive Council, and she will apparently face Jim Beard.

Warmington had 28% of the votes cast in the six-person race, giving her a lead of about 600 votes, or 3 percentage points, with almost 90% of votes counted in the district. If this holds up she will be favored in November since District 2, which stretches from Keene through Concord to Dover, is strongly Democratic.

On the Republican side, Beard, a commercial pilot from Lempster defeated Stewart Levenson, a Hopkinton physician known for being a whistleblower of problems at the Manchester Veterans Administration hospital. Beard had a 53% to 47% lead with almost nine-tenths of precincts reporting.

Their race was close in many communities in the district including Concord, where Beard received 1,299 votes and Levenson 1,378.

For the Democrats, an expected race between a trio of Concord attorneys did not materialize, as Jay Surdukowski, who was strongly criticized by several of his party opponents, was well back in the pack with just 9% of the votes.

A surprise in the election was the strong showing of Emmett Soldati, who came in third place with 19% of the vote. He owns Teetotaller, a “queer-friendly” non-alcoholic cafe in Somersworth, and seemed to have little base outside the state’s smallest city, where his father was once mayor.

Also running were Craig Thompson, owner of Mayfair Farm in Harrisville, who received 13% of the votes,  and former councilor John Shea of Nelson, who received 6%.

Warmington, a former health care administrator, is a partner at Shaheen and Gordon who has specialized in negotiating contracts for health-care providers in New Hampshire. She received perhaps the most high profile of endorsements in the race, from former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.

In Concord, Warmington won easily, carrying all 10 wards and receiving 2,345 votes in the city to 1,768 for Plunkett and 1,022 for Surdukowski.

This Democratic primary was unusual for the Executive Council, a five-person body that approves judges and other appointees and has final say on most state contracts, and not only for the large number of entrants. In past years council races tended to focus on specific issues about spending but this one was drawing most attention as a referendum on the council’s 3-2 decision, on a party-line vote, not to appoint Attorney General Gordon MacDonald as chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

The three Democrats expressed concern about some of MacDonald’s past actions supporting opponents of abortion rights.

Surdukowski objected to the decision to block MacDonald, drawing rebukes from Plunkett and Warmington. Two political action committees, one formed by a former law partner of MacDonald and the other formed by abortion rights activists, have been part of the race, funding ads and otherwise aiding various candidates.

The bigger picture is that the once relatively obscure body has become much more politicized, partly because Gov. Chris Sununu used his seat on the Executive Council to launch his gubernatorial career, a feat that Volinsky is attempting to emulate.

In other Executive Council races:

District 1: Joseph Kenney easily defeated Kim Strathdee in the GOP primary.  Incumbent Michael Cryans was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

District 3:MindiMessmer defeated Patricia Lovelyjoy 2-to-1 in the Democratic primary. It appears that Janet Stevens defeated Timothy Comerford and Bruce Crochetiere in the Republican primary, although a victor was not declared at deadline. Russ Prescott, a Republican, did not run for re-election.

District 4: Mark Mackenzie won the Democratic primary, defeating Jerome Duval and Kola Adewumi. Incumbent Ted Gatsas was unopposed in the GOP primary.

District 5: Former councilor David Wheeler defeated Bob Clegg in the Republican primary. Incumbent Deb Pignatelli was unopposed in the Democratic primary. This will be the fourth time that Wheeler and Pignatelli have faced each other for this seat.

 (David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or d brooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)



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