Democrats, Republicans hold dueling unity events

·4 min read

Sep. 15—CONCORD — Democratic and Republican Party leaders hosted dueling unity events Thursday, both insisting they will have the momentum to win big in the midterm elections.

The theme of the GOP breakfast at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord was to try to bust up the all-Democratic congressional delegation and to make Gov. Chris Sununu the first Republican in state history to win a fourth two-year term.

Second Congressional District nominee Bob Burns of Pembroke said Republicans have in the past skipped races further down the ballot more than Democrats have.

"Republicans have a tendency to skip votes more than Democrats do," Burns said. "The Democrats' mantra is just vote blue all the way through."

Less than an hour later outside the Legislative Office Building, Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley presided over his party's rally with the stated goal of retiring Sununu and ending GOP domination of the Legislature and the Executive Council.

"New Hampshire has been shocked, stunned and mortified by the MAGA Republicans at the State House," Buckley said.

All the Democratic incumbents in the federal delegation missed Thursday's event due to congressional action on Capitol Hill.

Republican National Chairman Ronna McDaniel reminded the crowd that while the Democratic National Committee has put off proposed changes to the 2024 presidential primary calendar, her party has already approved rules cementing New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation status.

"So when you talk to your neighbors remind them that Republicans are committed to New Hampshire, but Democrats are walking away," McDaniel said.

Sununu embraces ticket he didn't endorse

Sununu stressed it was pivotal for all Republicans to unite behind the ticket that also includes U.S. Senate nominee Don Bolduc of Stratham and 1st Congressional District GOP winner Karoline Leavitt of Hampton.

In this campaign, Sununu did not endorse any of the winners for federal office, instead embracing Senate President Chuck Morse for the U.S. Senate and Keene Mayor George Hansel, who lost to Burns in the 2nd Congressional District.

"Do we have the discipline to stand shoulder to shoulder with those we fought so hard against in the primary?" Sununu asked.

Bolduc, who had called Sununu's family "Chinese Communist" sympathizers, shared a warm embrace with the governor.

Tom Sherman of Rye, Democratic nominee for governor, criticized Sununu for endorsing Bolduc's candidacy after calling him "not a serious candidate" who promoted "conspiracy theories."

"Chris Sununu has once again shown he cares about his political ambitions more than his principles by supporting someone he's admitted is trying to undermine our freedoms," Sherman said. "Sununu already caved to extremists and limited women's freedom by signing New Hampshire's first modern abortion ban. It's no surprise he continues to back politicians who want to limit our freedoms even further."

Hassan's campaign put out a video on social media that featured past critical comments about Bolduc from Sununu, 2020 Senate GOP nominee Corky Messner and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski of Windham.

Leavitt said the GOP has a winning message that will cut spending to curb inflation, close the southern border and promote more domestic energy production.

"The Democrats may have the media on their side, but we have the truth." Leavitt said. "The Democrats may have the elites and the Hollywood celebrities on their side, but we have God, faith and family on our side."

Bolduc appealed to those who did not support him, admitting the rhetoric at times was over the top.

"We all say things in the heat of the moment that later we wish we didn't say," Bolduc said. "We all have to come together. There is no better time than to do it now; the time is now."

State Rep. Matt Wilhelm, D-Manchester, chairman of the New Hampshire House Democratic PAC, stressed the importance of every vote, noting Republicans won the majority in 2020 by 756 votes in 14 different House races.

"The stakes could not be higher," Wilhelm said.

And Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy of Manchester warned that if Republicans stay in charge at the State House, there will be more attempts to restrict legal abortions.

"We can't allow that to happen," Soucy said.

klandrigan@unionleader.com