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NH Republicans call for unity ahead of November midterms

Union Leader Correspondent

September 13. 2018 11:13PM
Gov. Chris Sununu emphasizing the important role that competitive primaries play in getting voters engaged in the political process. (Travis R. Morin/Union Leader Correspondent)

BEDFORD — In the wake of an often heated Republican primary contest, candidates, elected officials and party luminaries from across the Granite State gathered at the Bedford Village Inn on Thursday for a unity breakfast to rally the party ahead of the 2018 midterm elections in November.

In a keynote address, Gov. Chris Sununu called on the party to look past the primary and on to the general election.

“It really is important that we come together,” said Sununu. “You know why? Because primaries stink. They’re tough. Primaries are horrible. But they are absolutely necessary. Primaries are what give us momentum and what give us the ability to get people talking and electrified.”

1st Congressional District nominee Eddie Edwards and 2nd Congressional nominee state Rep. Steve Negron both took time to pay tribute to their primary opponents, state Sen. Andy Sanborn and Dr. Stewart Levenson and former state Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker, all of whom were in attendance.

For Edwards and Sanborn, the breakfast marked the end of a contentious primary that was often defined by questions of character.

The tensions between the two reached a high water mark in August, when Edwards walked off a debate stage after saying he would not support Sanborn if Sanborn had won the nomination because of what Edwards termed “character flaws,” a reference to workplace harassment investigations at the State House that Sanborn was at the center of.

Sanborn has publicly stated his plans to support Edwards in the general election — a point that Edwards highlighted when asked about his former opponent.

“We talked today, and we had a very good exchange,” said Edwards of his former opponent. “The senator indicated he would publicly endorse me and support me. So I feel very confident about the unity in our party and that it’s going the right way.”

Sanborn could not be reached for comment on specific plans to support Edwards.

Speakers also wasted no time to start going after the Democratic ticket, with state Senate President Chuck Morse saying that former state senator and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Molly Kelly, Executive Councilor and 1st Congressional District nominee Chris Pappas, and 2nd Congressional Rep. Annie Kuster are all “classic big government liberals who have never met a government program that they didn’t like.”

With Tuesday’s unofficial vote count at approximately 120,000 for Democrats and 92,000 for Republicans, some — including independent nonpartisan newsletter the Cook Political Report — have signaled that Granite State Democrats are heading into 2018 midterms with the wind at their backs.

In spite of this, Sununu said Tuesday’s results don’t strike him as a sign of a Democratic edge in November.

“What happens in terms of voter turnout in a primary, that’s all dictated based on those individual party’s campaigns,” said Sununu. “They are not reflective of the other party or what’s going to happen in November at all. And if you look historically, that proves itself out. We had the turnout that we were expecting on our side, and that’s all that matters.”

Negron took a different approach, saying he looks at high Democratic turnout as an opportunity for the GOP to engage with voters who are politically active and engaged.

“Those are people that are interested. Those are people that want to get involved, and those are the people that I want to talk to,” Negron said. “If they have a basic fundamental interest in this political process, then those are the people that I think we can bring the argument to.”

Noticeably absent from the breakfast was any mention of GOP standard bearer President Donald Trump, whose name was not brought up by any of the event’s speakers.

When asked about this, State Republican Party Chairman Wayne MacDonald chalked it up to the event focusing on NH, but emphasized support for Trump among the state party faithful.

“I think if you ask virtually any Republican in this room, they’re gonna tell you that they agree with the President on tax cuts, on how he’s handling the economy, what he’s doing internationally in terms of North Korea. He’s certainly got a different approach than some other Presidents have had, but his style has so far been very effective.”

Asked if he would welcome Trump to NH to hit the campaign trail with the GOP ticket, MacDonald replied, “Absolutely.”

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