Sununu sworn in as New Hampshire’s 82nd governor, youngest in the country

  • Gov. Chris Sununu acknowledges the gallery with his wife, Valerie, and Speaker Shawn Jasper after being sworn in as the youngest governor in the nation. Sununu also became the second in his family to take the corner office in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Governor Chris Sununu gives the thumbs up sign as he leaves Representatives Hall at the State House after being sworn in as the the youngest governor in the nation Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Governor Chris Sununu takes a selfie with Post 1670 senior vice commander Hillary Seeger at the reception in the Executive Council chambers after his inauguration Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Governor Chris Sununu waves to guests in the reception line in the Executive Council chambers with his wife Valerie after he was sworn in as the youngest governor in the nation Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Governor Chris Sununu and his wife Valerie at the Executive Council chambers Thursday after being sworn in as the nation’s youngest governor. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Governor Chris Sununu kisses his wife Valerie in the reception line in the Executive Council chambers after being inaugurated the youngest governor in the nation Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Governor Chris Sununu is sworn in by New Hamphsire chief justice Linda Dalianis as his wife Valerie looks on Thursday at the State House. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Valerie Sununu gets a hug as Governor Chris Sununu greets guests during a reception at the Executive Council chambers after being inaugurated Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Governor Chris Sununu walks with his family in tow to the inauguration carrying his bible on the way to the House chambers in the State House Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Gov. Chris Sununu and wife Valerie listen to Sienna Szarek, 8, as she sings the national anthem at his inauguration in the State House chambers Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff+++++

  • Governor Chris Sununu gets a standing ovation during his inauguration speech at the State House Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Governor Chris Sununu acknowledges the cheers at the State House after his speech at the State House Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Published: 1/5/2017 1:46:15 PM

As he started to repeat the oath of office for the first time, Gov. Chris Sununu nearly forgot to say his name.

Repeating after Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court Linda Dalianis, Sununu picked himself up after the stumble.

“I ...” he paused, “Chris Sununu.”

“Remember, we talked about this,” Dalianis gently chided him, as many in the audience chuckled.

“What happened to ‘State your name’?” Sununu laughed.

“You practiced, remember,” Dalianis said.

“I know,” he said. “It’s been a big day.”

Sununu, a Republican, officially became New Hampshire’s 82nd governor on Thursday, charting a course for the next two years that’s markedly different from the last decade under Democratic governors.

During his inaugural speech, the new governor made clear his support for Right-to-Work legislation, cutting business taxes and improving school choice for the state’s families. While Republicans sitting in the New Hampshire Representatives Hall often jumped to their feet to applaud these proposals, many Democratic politicians stayed seated.

However, Sununu’s speech also touched on areas of common ground between the two parties, including improving state aid to schools and continuing to fight the drug crisis.

“If you’re sitting in this room, you love this state,” Sununu said. “We share those common values, those common goals. We have different ways of getting there. Let’s not let the political attitude of yesterday overcome what we need to do tomorrow.”

However, Sununu likely won’t need Democrats’ help to enact his agenda. Republicans control majorities in the House and Senate, as well as the Executive Council.

“For the first time in 14 years, Republicans in the legislature have an ally in the Governor’s office, and our positive legislative agenda for New Hampshire will be met with a signature pen rather than a veto pen,” House Majority Leader Dick Hinch of Merrimack said in a statement.

The 42-year-old Sununu is now the youngest governor in the nation. He was previously a three-term member of the New Hampshire Executive Council.

He is also the second member of his family to be inaugurated governor; his father, John H. Sununu, served as governor from 1983 to 1989.

Sununu’s parents, siblings and children sat in the audience as he delivered his speech, while his wife, Valerie, sat to the side of the podium, smiling throughout the address.

In addition to outlining his business and energy priorities for the state, Sununu reiterated a commitment to tackling New Hampshire’s heroin and opioid crisis, which he called the No. 1 issue facing the state.

“So many folks need our help, so many folks need our resources,” Sununu said. “This is the type of crisis you don’t need to study too hard, you see it. There’s no one in the state that’s been untouched by this.”

A Republican return tothe corner office

After a dozen years of Democratic governors, Thursday’s inauguration and reception that followed had the feel of a Republican reunion.

The state’s most recent Republican governor, Craig Benson, who was ousted after a single term, showed up. So did former U.S. senators Scott Brown and Kelly Ayotte, who lost elections in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

While a few of the inaugural celebration’s youngest attendees colored on the table usually used for Executive Council meetings, members of both parties formed a long receiving line to shake the hands of Sununu and his wife Valerie in front of the grand, wooden fireplace in council chambers.

Rep. Jacqueline Cali-Pitts, a seacoast Democrat, hugged the pair, then voiced concern with the Republican’s agenda to pass Right-to-Work. But Cali-Pitts said she will work with him.

“I need to hear more specific plans,” she said.

Republican Senate President Chuck Morse, who filled in as governor in the two days between Hassan’s departure and Sununu’s swearing in, drained a Diet Coke before joining the receiving line, situating himself between House Speaker Shawn Jasper and Valerie Sununu.

Morse said Sununu’s energy impressed him.

“I believe we need to drive this economy; he hit this pretty hard,” he said.

Republican Joe Kenney, who served served alongside Sununu on the Executive Council, echoed that sentiment.

“I’m in a very depressed part of the state economically; we need development and to retain our workforce,” said Kenney, who represents the North Country.

While Democratic leaders in New Hampshire congratulated Sununu, they were not in as celebratory a mood.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn of Dalton said he’s optimistic members of his party can work with Sununu on issues including Medicaid expansion, family leave, affordable college and investing in full-day kindergarten.

“Senate Democrats are ready to work with the new governor, as we have with our Republican legislative colleagues, to craft compromises,” Woodburn said in a statement. “But I’m concerned that, so far, Governor Sununu has focused on a divisive template of policies that make it harder for people to make ends meet and harder for people to get ahead.”

Newly sworn-in Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky of Concord said he appreciated Sununu’s optimistic tone and promise to make state government more “customer service”-oriented.

But Volinsky was also clear he plans to oppose some of Sununu’s policy proposals, most notably Right-to-Work.

“He wants this group to be collegial and have an attitude towards one another that’s appropriate to working together, I like and respect that,” Volinsky said. “(But) he chose to put a few items in his inaugural speech, which is his prerogative, that are anything but the kind of issue that will bring people together, they’re probably the most divisive issues that we’ll face.”

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)

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