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March 12. 2014 10:06PM

Newly elected, Kenney ready to replace Burton on Executive Council

CONCORD — Newly elected Executive Councilor Joe Kenney wasted no time staking out his political territory as he met with reporters outside the council chambers on Wednesday morning.

The former state senator and lifelong resident of Wakefield promised to use his new position as a “bully pulpit” to promote the interests of North Country residents, including opposition to the Northern Pass hydroelectric project and wind turbines that have been proposed in the towns served by Council District 1, which encompasses the northern part of the state.

It was a close election, with many observers predicting a win for Democratic candidate Mike Cryans. The former Grafton County commissioner had been endorsed by Gov. Maggie Hassan and the family of the late Ray Burton, the much-revered Republican councilor who’d held the District 1 seat since 1981.

Kenney’s campaign manager, former Nashua state Rep. Casey Crane, said at one point in the evening Cryans was 2,000 votes ahead.

“Someone from his campaign called to ask when we were going to concede,” she said.

Unofficial totals gave Kenney a 1,200-vote margin, 21,182 to 19,945, with some towns still to be counted in the sprawling district consisting of more than 100 municipalities.

The councilor-elect appeared at the Executive Council meeting hoping the results would be certified by the Secretary of State in time for him to be sworn in, but that was not the case. As the meeting was getting under way, Gov. Maggie Hassan announced, “Mr. Cryans has just conceded the race to Senator Kenney. We will welcome you as soon as the race is certified.”

Kenney’s response — “It was a hell of an election” — was drowned out by applause.

Speaking to reporters as he left the chamber, Kenney struck a non-partisan tone, saying, “Voters rejected the politics of ideology. It was a hard-fought election, a very tough race, but it was a race about issues.”

Kenney promised to focus on roads, infrastructure and jobs.

“That’s what I was hearing on the campaign trail,” he said. “Bridge work and road work was paramount. Our bridges and roads have really deteriorated.”

One of his first initiatives will be to work with the Department of Resources and Economic Development to set up an economic development conference for the North Country, “to push our state leaders into the northern part of the state,” he said.

Kenney joins Councilor Chris Sununu as one of two Republicans on the five-member board that oversees the Executive Branch. Democrats will still hold a 3-2 advantage.

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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