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Former governor Sununu the focus of jokes at GOP roast

Union Leader Correspondent

August 30. 2018 9:24PM
Current Gov. Chris Sununu sat beside former Gov. John H. Sununu during the roast. (Ryan Lessard)

WINDHAM — Former New Hampshire governor and White House chief of staff John H. Sununu got playfully poked during a roast in his honor at the Castleton Banquet Center here Thursday.

“To determine what to do when the great stone face fell, Gov. Sununu was anything but subtle when he told … us that the profile of his own likeness would look great up there,” Union Leader Publisher Joe McQuaid said to the room full of Republicans — referring to the collapse of the Old Man of the Mountain in 2003.

McQuaid was one of just a handful to throw verbal jabs at the former governor.

David Carney, a onetime political adviser to Sununu and self-described “political hack,” emceed the event, a major GOP fundraiser and a who’s who of state Republican politics.

The roasters at the event, Carney said, represented a broad spectrum of people from Sununu’s political career — from his time as governor to his stint as chief of staff to former President George H.W. Bush.

Most of the jokes were tame and leaned on stories of Sununu’s past.

Former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu was the first to roast his dad, mostly by recounting stories as a child growing up in the Sununu household, like the time the elder Sununu tried making pancakes.

“The stain on the ceiling stayed there for two decades,” the younger Sununu recalled.

Other roasters were former New Hampshire Congressman and state Supreme Court Justice Chuck Douglas, former Gov. Steve Merrill, former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and former Sununu staffer Sheri Keniston.

Bush and Mitt Romney wrote letters for the event. In his letter, Bush asked the roasters to go a little easy on his old friend.

“Then again, you might want to consider that John always has the last word,” Bush wrote.

Romney quipped he considered making the trip to Windham but didn’t want to fuel rumors of a possible 2020 campaign.

“I might explore a campaign to follow John and Nancy’s footsteps as Hampton Falls hog reeves and pound keepers, which happen to be the only two offices I haven’t run for yet,” Romney wrote.

Current New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu wrote a letter to his father which included a fake list of advice he once got from the former governor. Third on the list was “When you are getting bad press, save bears.”

More than just an opportunity to aim light-hearted barbs at a Republican stalwart, Thursday’s event was also an unofficial start to the political mid-terms. “It’s a good kickoff for the fall campaign,” Carney said.

State Republican Party Chairman Wayne MacDonald said the event had already raised between $30,000 and $40,000 from tickets, table sponsors and ads, but pledges were still coming in.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of movement on this in the last 10 days or so,” MacDonald said. “It’s practically a sellout.”

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte spoke at the start of the event and asked for a moment of silence in recognition of the passing of Sen. John McCain.


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