The Democratically led Executive Council should apologize to Attorney Gen. Gordon MacDonald for rejecting him as chief justice of the state Supreme Court on political grounds, Gov. Chris Sununu said last week.

Kevin Landrigan

We’re nearly four months since the three Democrats voted against MacDonald and Sununu said there’s no timetable for nominating someone else.

“It would be great to be able to move forward but the council has made it clear they are going to keep politics as a key variable in there,” Sununu said.

The governor was asked what the council could do to show him it’s time to break the stalemate and promote someone else.

“They haven’t even tried anything yet,” Sununu said. “They could say we apologize to Gordon for putting him through that. It was a very inappropriate step that we took and we are willing to actually take a step back and give assurance whether it is Gordon or anyone else that politics won’t come to bear.”

Councilor Debora Pignatelli, D-Nashua, said she has submitted to Sununu others who would be acceptable to her and has gotten no response.

Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, a candidate for governor, said Sununu is abdicating his duty by not directing the Judicial Selection Commission to recommend a pool of alternative picks.

Sununu said the candidate well is poisoned.

“We have actually had folks come to us and say ‘I was thinking of putting myself up in the running to be a judge in the state,' but given what the council has done, please don’t do that right now,” Sununu said.

Councilor Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, has urged the council to reconsider MacDonald, a request that’s fallen on deaf ears.

Dem legislative leaders wary of creating bullseyes

Time after time this fall, House committees led by Democrats have moved to put on the shelf or recommend killing outright controversial issues held over from 2019.

This week’s exhibits were bills to eliminate drunk-driving charges for someone in the car sleeping it off and also to legalize and tax marijuana.

House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, and Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, were in the House a decade ago and don’t want a repeat of that history.

In 2008-09, House Democrats were in a second straight term in control and members pursued ideas such as banning hot-air balloon launches and allowing unions of one person to organize.

Then-House Speaker Terie Norelli, D-Portsmouth, did all she could to limit the political damage but the state GOP turned those bills into headlines on mailers.

The 2010 Tea Party election not only ousted Democrats and installed arch-conservative Bill O’Brien as speaker, but voters gave the GOP 3-1 majorities in both legislative bodies.

O’Brien and the Senate GOP rewrote redistricting maps that handed Republican candidates built-in advantages over the past decade.

It’s the same reason New England Patriots who play for Coach Bill Belichick aren’t allowed to mouth off about their opponent.

First Rule: Do not give your enemy bulletin-board material.

Pignatelli slams Sununu on highway toll remarks

You rarely see a council and governor get personal at the table.

There it was last week, when Pignatelli objected to what Sununu said in Merrimack, at one of those events where they mug for the cameras behind an oversized check.

Pignatelli said Sununu branded her a supporter of toll increases when she said she’s spent her entire career fighting for the town.

“You made some inappropriate comments about me. Not only do I not love tollbooths, I really hate them … since 2004 I have been working with the people of Merrimack to get rid of them,” she protested.

Sununu said he was speaking about her role on the council as “having the responsibility” over toll-booth construction work that gets into the 10-year highway plan.

We obtained video of the comments Sununu made when a woman out of the frame says she has never seen Pignatelli at a town council meeting protesting the tolls.

“Look, talk to Deb. Deb is all for raising tolls,” Sununu said. “Good luck trying to get Deb to get rid of your tolls. Really you should talk to her. She has been ignoring the issue since the day she got in there.”

Now that the ugly dust-up is over, both Sununu and Pignatelli said they’d keep working together to get rid of Merrimack’s toll nightmare.

“I am all for getting rid of the Merrimack tollbooths,” Sununu said. “I have been for that for quite some time. It’s up to the Legislature to get it done.”

NH DOT and national post

Transportation Commissioner Victoria Sheehan of Nashua was nominated by Sununu to another term that would keep her there through 2023. Sununu said she’s an out-of-the-box doer who has a powerful “national voice” since becoming vice president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) earlier this month.

Traditionally, a year later, the vice president goes on to lead AASHTO.

Proving New Hampshire is everywhere, Sheehan is number two, but who is number one in this influential national lobbying group?

That’s Missouri Transportation Commissioner Patrick McKenna.

What was McKenna’s last job before this one, which he got in 2015? Deputy commissioner of NH DOT.

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