Granite Status: Activists hope for primary challenge to Sununu, but upside unclear

EVEN AS GOV. Chris Sununu‘s Democratic challengers hammer him for moving too quickly toward reopening the state, a small group of activists says Sununu is taking it too slow.

As noted in Sunday’s installment of State House Dome, some conservative and libertarian activists are getting so frustrated with Sununu’s COVID-19 containment measures that they are casting about for someone else to vote for.

Andrew Manuse, a former state representative who chairs the Reopen NH group that organized protests at the State House, said he does not want to vote for Sununu in November.

“He was a really good governor before this,” Manuse said. “He’s destroyed the state’s economy for really no good reason.”

Manuse said he does not trust the University of New Hampshire’s surveys that show broad approval for the governor from across the political spectrum.

“I think Sununu is going to be surprised by how much support he loses by November,” Manuse said. But he said he is not hopeful any Republican will mount a serious primary challenge to Sununu.

President Donald Trump‘s campaign reiterated its support of the governor Wednesday.

“President Trump and Governor Sununu have displayed exemplary leadership throughout the coronavirus crisis, with special consideration to the safety and well-being of Granite Staters, and Republicans are united behind them,” Republican National Committee spokesman Nina McLaughlin said in a statement.

Chris Galdieri, associate professor of politics at Saint Anselm College, said short of a “tectonic shift” in the state, he couldn’t imagine any Republican challenging Sununu.

“It makes very little sense to me. He’s been the most conservative governor the state has had since Craig Benson,” Galdieri said. Wounding Sununu only helps his Democratic challengers — which could leave the State House fully under Democratic control.

“I don’t see how this ends well for them, or gets them what they want,” Galdieri said.

Bolduc picks up endorsements
Former state senator Gary Lambert of Nashua, who ran and lost in the 2014 Republican primary for the Second Congressional District, is endorsing Don Bolduc‘s candidacy in the Republican Senate primary. Also endorsing Bolduc is Jim Bender, who lost a seven-way Republican Senate primary in 2010 to former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

“General Bolduc’s entire life has been about service,” Lambert said in a statement. “From his tireless advocacy of our veterans to teaching young about the importance of integrity and leadership, I have no doubt he will bring the same energy serving the people of N.H.”

Bender said he considers Bolduc a “patriot and a public servant.”

“I know he’ll bring the rare brand of leadership to the U.S. Senate that New Hampshire deserves and needs,” Bender said.

Bolduc’s campaign is also rolling out a new online ad this week, highlighting Bolduc’s work to help fellow veterans with post-traumatic stress.

Corky Messner, the other candidate in the Republican primary to take on Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, announced endorsements of his own Wednesday. Former state Rep. Fred Rice — who the Portsmouth Herald reported this month is moving to North Carolina — endorsed Messner, as did Belknap County Deputy Sheriff Bill Wright, who is running for sheriff.

Gun control PAC endorses Pappas
Rep. Chris Pappas has been “incredible on our issue,” said Brian Lemek of Brady PAC, a group that backs what it terms “anti-gun violence” candidates. Pappas is one of about 120 candidates getting the group’s endorsement this month, along with a $10,000 donation — the maximum a PAC can donate to a campaign by law.

“Our focus right now is front-liners in tough races,” Lemek said. “We’re going to watch the race really closely. If we start to see pressure, or the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) investing really heavily in the race, we’re going to engage our grassroots advocates, our grassroots donor network.”

The NRCC has designated the First District seat as a top pick-up opportunity in November.

“If it comes down to it, we would consider independent expenditure,” Lemek said.

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