ON EARTH DAY, executive councilor and candidate for governor Andru Volinsky announced he won the endorsement of the Sierra Club — and the Sierra Club took a club to Volinsky’s opponent in the Democratic primary, state Sen. Dan Feltes.

Jerry Curran, the club’s New Hampshire president, said Volinsky won the endorsement because he did not receive campaign contributions from Liberty Utilities, and because he was the “only opponent” of the company’s proposed Granite Bridge pipeline.

The pipeline would follow Route 101, bringing natural gas from Exeter to Manchester, with a storage tank in Epping.

Curran said Feltes did not answer when the Sierra Club asked about his support for the pipeline.

To counter, Feltes’ campaign pointed out that Bernstein Shur, where Volinksy is a partner, once lobbied on behalf of the Portland-Montreal pipeline, which passes through northern New Hampshire.

On Wednesday morning, Volinsky did not answer when asked if he played any role in the pipeline lobbying.

“Petty bickering and name calling, and I’m just not going to stoop to that level,” he said.

Volinsky’s campaign later said he was not involved in the pipeline account, and has never acted as a lobbyist himself.

Runaway approval for Sununu

On the other side of the governor’s race, the incumbent is enjoying broad support for the way he’s handling the COVID-19 response.

According to a University of New Hampshire survey released Wednesday, even more people approve of Gov. Chris Sununu‘s handling of the coronavirus crisis than last month.

The last installment of the Granite State Panel — an online poll run by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center — was taken before Sununu’s emergency order closing “non-essential” businesses.

Despite a smattering of frustration from conservative and libertarian activists — on display at a rally last Saturday over that emergency order — the poll suggests the order didn’t dampen Sununu’s support among Republicans. The pollsters say 93% of New Hampshire Republicans approve of what the governor has done.

Among Democrats, 86% say they approve of the way Sununu has handled the crisis — a sharp increase from the 61% of Democrats who said they approved of Sununu’s response in March.

Just 9% of New Hampshire residents say they oppose the stay-home order, which is more popular among Democrats than Republicans.

Ad buys already starting

In case broad bipartisan approval was not enough to bolster Sununu, the Republican Governors Association has booked $3.6 million worth of ads set to run after the September primary on New Hampshire’s only commercial TV station and the Boston channels that reach us.

The Democratic Governors Association said in 2019 they saw New Hampshire as a top pick-up opportunity, and ran online ads earlier this month showing what they saw as Sununu’s downplaying the threat of COVID-19.

Republican Governors Association Amelia Chassé Alcivar confirmed the unusually early ad buys Wednesday.

“New Hampshire’s historically competitive media market makes pre-booking the most efficient way to maximize the impact of any potential investment,” she wrote in an email.

Contact Josie Albertson-Grove at jgrove@unionleader.com. Granite Status is published every Thursday.