Dems kick off campaign to link Sununu with McConnell

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Jul. 13—CONCORD — The New Hampshire Democratic Party has launched an aggressive campaign against Gov. Chris Sununu's potential U.S. Senate bid, even as the governor said his decision is months away.

Entitled "McConnell-Sununu Exposed," the effort focuses upon Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's wooing of Sununu to run against U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., in 2022.

"For McConnell, recruiting, cajoling, and begging Sununu to run is about power — plain and simple," said the NHDP memo on the project obtained by the Union Leader.

"Raw, special-interest-protecting, Washington-status-quo-preserving power — for Mitch, and not for New Hampshire," it reads.

Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said this rollout will include digital ads, press conferences and other public events that harp on Sununu's support for a ban on late-term abortions and for federal income tax cuts that he said most benefited the wealthy.

"Mitch McConnell wants Chris Sununu to be New Hampshire's next senator because he knows that Sununu would be a rubber stamp for his agenda," Buckley said.

This is the first organized campaign by state party officials about Sununu's political future, and it comes on the heels of the governor signing a two-year state budget.

But on Tuesday, Sununu threw cold water on the notion he'd be making a decision about a Senate campaign any time soon.

"It really could be until the winter. I mean, I'm not even talking late summer. I can tell you there's no decision this summer," Sununu told Mike Pomp, host of the Morning Information Center program on WTPL-FM radio.

GOP: Dems' bid to bait Sununu won't work

Later Sununu added, "I've got a job to do and I'm going to focus on that for three, six, nine months."

Benjamin Vihstadt, the governor's spokesman, said the Democrats' attempt to bait Sununu into moving up his decision-making won't work.

"The governor hasn't even decided what his next plans are, and these sad individuals are already throwing a hissy fit," Vihstadt said. "As the governor has repeatedly said, the people of New Hampshire deserve a break from non-stop campaigning and false attacks, and he is going to enjoy the summer and following months, doing his job as governor before making a decision on what comes next."

New Hampshire Republican State Committee Executive Director Joe Sweeney said state Democrats are revealing they think Hassan can't win a second six-year term if the focus is on her record.

"Hassan can spin as many lies as she wants through her Democrat Party boss but you can see the desperation and panic New Hampshire Democrats have with this latest stunt," Sweeney said.

"Maggie Hassan is the most vulnerable U.S. senator in the country and will be defeated by Granite Staters in 2022, and replaced by a Republican who protects and defends our New Hampshire Advantage," he said.

Buckley also pounced on a new study from CNBC that showed New Hampshire's standing in the national ranking of states for businesses had dropped from 25th to 37th.

"Chris Sununu's policies prioritizing Mitch McConnell and special interests are making New Hampshire an inhospitable state for small business owners," Buckley said.

"This report shows what people in New Hampshire have known for a long time, which is that Chris Sununu is more focused on being courted by national Republicans than working for Granite Staters," he said.

klandrigan@unionleader.com

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