New Hampshire Republicans Looking to Oust Their Own Party’s Governor

New Hampshire Republicans Looking to Oust Their Own Party’s Governor
Karen Testerman is one of five Republican looking to unseat fellow Republican and current NH Gov. Chris Sununu
Alice Giordano

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is looking for a fourth term and, despite a crowded GOP primary ticket, many state Republican insiders say he will likely keep his job, but not because he is popular among party politicians.

On the contrary, says NH State Rep. Melissa Blasek, also executive director of the conservative Republican organization ReBuildNH, which is outspokenly anti-Sununu, “many Republicans will likely hold their noses and support him.”

Blasek, speaking largely on her experience with Sununu as a Republican state representative, said that the five candidates vying for the Republican ticket “just aren’t strong enough to win it.”

ReBuild to NH Chairman Andrew Manuse told The Epoch Times he has it on “reliable sources” that the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) has thrown money behind keeping Sununu the only viable Republican candidate for governor.

“It is disheartening to me that the governor’s association would get involved in primary politics and discourage strong, viable candidates who could win and boost the party’s strength from running in the governor’s race,” said Manuse.

RGA, which lists their one objective as “electing and supporting Republican governors” did not respond to inquiries by The Epoch Times about the allegation.

In his bid to unseat Sununu, Thad Riley, whose political experience is being a member of the local school board,  hired a campaign team and won the endorsement of Daniel Tamburello, an intelligence officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security who helped run Donald Trump’s campaign in New Hampshire.

Riley, a staunch conservative who lives in Exeter, one of the most liberal towns in New Hampshire, told The Epoch Times he believes he “definitely has a chance” of ousting Sununu, in large part, he said, because of Sununu’s “Democratic-like” track record.

“He’s been so on the wrong side of policy that it’s almost been a gift,” Riley said. He noted that of the 73 events he has attended on the campaign trail, he is mainly meeting voters who want “Sununu out.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu speaks during a ceremony in Manchester, N.H., on Sept. 2, 2020. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images for DraftKings)
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu speaks during a ceremony in Manchester, N.H., on Sept. 2, 2020. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images for DraftKings)

Sununu, who has been the subject of letters of no confidence and impeachment efforts within his party has left fellow state Republicans disgruntled.

The myriad of Republican-led efforts he rejected included a proposed ban on school mask mandates and a bill that would have made Ivermectin available over the counter in New Hampshire as an implied treatment of COVID-19.

Sununu also criticized a proposed parental rights bill as too overreaching, was accused by his party of orchestrating the public arrest of eight protesters when they challenged his push to take federal money to promote the COVID-19 vaccine, and wouldn’t support a Republican-led charge to ban businesses from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.

Even on a national scale, Sununu ired many of his own with his extreme anti-Trump sentiment, calling Trump “crazy” and saying if he were sent to a mental institution, he wouldn’t get out.

He also referred to Mike Lindell’s MyPillow products as “crap,” setting off a hail storm of anger among the conservative media where Lindell heavily advertises. Following the backlash, Sununu said he was joking around.

More recently, Sununu pledged to keep abortion a safe and protected right and rejected a redistricting map that would have given Republicans an edge over Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) and Rep. Mike Pappas (D-N.H.), the two Democrats who represent New Hampshire in U.S. Congress.

Republicans also sought to curb Sununu’s “overly abusive use of ... executive powers.” Sununu issued 21 executive orders and 90 emergency orders during the pandemic, including one that waived probable cause for law enforcement to come onto private property to ensure people were complying with mandates.

“He was basically out of control with his obsession with power,'' said Karen Testerman, another contender for Sununu’s seat.

The Founder and Executive Director of the ultra-conservative Cornerstone Policy Research, Testerman ran unsuccessfully against Sununu in the last primary. Sununu won with nearly 90 percent of the primary vote in 2018.

But this election, says Testerman, is not as much about hot button issues and party loyalty as it is about putting someone in the governor’s office that people can trust.

“I would say one out of every four people I talk to are Sununu supporters,” said Testerman, “the rest of them say they just don’t trust him anymore.”

She believes New Hampshire voters are ready for another Republican like the former U.S. Congressman Bob Smith. Smith, who served the Granite state in Washington for 13 years from 1990 to 2003, was popular among many voters even though he was exceedingly conservative.

“People on both sides voted for him every time because they knew they could trust him, that his words meant something,” Testerman said.

When contacted about his re-election bid, Sununu referred The Epoch Times to Communications Director Ben Vihstadt. Vihstadt did not respond to numerous inquiries.

Sununu has done little campaigning and has not participated in gubernatorial debates. His confidence as a moderate Republican may have been shaken a when little Massachusetts moderate Republican Chris Doughty lost the GOP gubernatorial primary to conservative Geoff Diehl. Sununu campaigned for Doughty, who derided Diehl as an “Alabama governor,” implying he was too conservative.

Two university polls, including one just conducted by St. Anselm College in mid-August, show Sununu’s approval rating has slipped with Republican voters. However, overall, he remains a popular governor, especially among Democrats.

The other poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire in December, showed that slightly more than half of Democrats gave Sununu high marks.