Kevin Landrigan Dome

TWO MORE SPECIAL elections are in the works in Bedford and Cheshire County, and there are strong reports of more in the offing.

The Executive Council last week set the schedule for voting to replace the late Rep. David Danielson, R-Bedford, and former Majority Leader Doug Ley, D-Jaffrey.

Ley, former president of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, represented a district that also included the towns of Roxbury, Dublin and Harrisville.

In the Bedford election, the GOP will be heavily favored. In the Cheshire County race, a known Democrat probably would start with an advantage.

The filing period for both seats opens Monday and runs through July 9.

The primaries for each are set for Sept. 7, the day after Labor Day. The general election will be Oct 26.

If only one candidate emerges in each party, the general election will be in September.

That’s unlikely in Bedford, where all signs point to a likely GOP primary.

Meanwhile, word is there could be two other vacancies, which would mean two more special elections before 2021 is over.

Second-term Rep. Anne Copp, R-Derry, reportedly is moving out of the district, which would mean she would have to step down.

Copp was one of only nine House Republicans to oppose the GOP state budget trailer bill (HB 2).

Also there’s two-term Rep. Michael Gunski, R-Goffstown, who serves on the House Resources and Recreational Development Committee.

GOP sources maintain he too could be resigning soon.

Neither Copp nor Gunski could be reached for comment Friday.

Having so many openings for House seats is far from unusual. We’ve had nearly a dozen legislative special elections in past cycles, which, yes, leads the nation.

It’s another reason there’s never a dull moment in New Hampshire politics.

Non-profit leader balks

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is not an ideological group.

Many left-of-center figures have had leadership roles, either in management or on the board, but the organization has been closely tied to the establishment and rarely stepped out on parochial politics.

Then there’s now.

At the end of last week, CEO Richard Ober issued a very critical statement about the budget, education vouchers and the process.

“A state budget is a statement of community values, and we believe that elements of this budget and trailer bill run contrary to the values of free speech, democratic representation and equality of opportunity. We are especially concerned about the use of a critically important pandemic-related budget process to enact controversial and ill-advised social policy,” Ober wrote.

“We now have a law in New Hampshire that censors the teaching of truth in public schools and state agencies about systemic racism and sexism. This will deter discussions of an honest rendering of our shared history. The opposition to this measure from every sector of our society was overwhelming and clear — and yet it was inserted into the state budget and signed notwithstanding. That is not how democracy should work.”

Temporary energy head

Jared Chicoine of North Haverhill will serve as interim commissioner of the new Department of Energy.

Gov. Chris Sununu made the appointment last week under state law that permits him to name a temporary department head for 60 days, until a permanent one is picked.

Chicoine has served over the past four years as director of the Office of Strategic Initiatives, one of the parts of the new agency that includes the state Public Utilities Commission and the Site Evaluation Committee.

Concord icon purchased

The state’s Stickney Avenue Garage has fallen into disrepair over the years, but back in the day, it was a visual gateway to the state’s capital city.

Last week, the state sold the 5.6-acre parcel for $1 million to Manchester-based Brady Sullivan Properties.

Built in 1926 to serve as the state’s highway garage, it grew into a five-building complex with one addition built in 1950.

The sale agreement doesn’t elaborate on the future use of the structure and land, but the new owners have to account for the reality that it is eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places.

Environmental surveys have concluded it will cost at least $275,000 to remove asbestos from the complex and perhaps another $49,000 to dispose of other “hazardous materials.”

Concord had expressed an interest in buying the parcel but state officials said “after several months of negotiations” it was clear the city could not meet the terms and timing of the private sale offer.

Bridge a long time coming

Reed & Reed General Contractors of Woolwich, Maine, won a $61 million contract to build a bridge across the Connecticut River between Hinsdale and Brattleboro, Vt.

Vermont will bear 27% of the costs, Transportation Commissioner Victoria Sheehan said.

The state is using $12 million in toll credits to help finance the project, she said.

“I think they have been talking about this bridge since 1987,” Sununu said. “It’s great to finally get here.”

Judicial picks face votes

The Executive Council is expected to vote on Sununu’s two judicial picks when it meets July 14 at Cannon Mountain in Franconia.

Former U.S. Attorney Scott Murray was Sununu’s pick to become a per diem judge in the circuit court. Sharon DeVries is stepping down after 32 years as a per diem judge in Hampton.

“We are blessed in New Hampshire with committed, caring employees who are always ready to step up when needed. I will miss them dearly as I move on,” DeVries wrote in her retirement letter.

Murray had been the state’s top federal prosecutor from Dec. 1, 2017, until he resigned last March with other Trump administration appointees.

First Assistant Attorney John J. Farley is serving as acting U.S. attorney until President Joe Biden picks a permanent replacement.

Sununu has nominated Christopher Keating of Tuftonboro to a full-time judgeship on the New Hampshire Superior Court.

He has been the executive director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and previously served as executive director of the New Hampshire Judicial Council.

Keating also was the past head of the state’s public defender office and worked as a lawyer for Dartmouth College.

The nominees faced public hearings before the Executive Council last Wednesday.

College president on move

Granite State College President Mark Rubinstein will become the new chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire.

Rubinstein replaces Ross Gittell, who stepped down after seven years last spring to accept the presidency of Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I.

The move is a natural promotion since GSC serves as a primary site where community college students transfer to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree.

Susan Huard came out of retirement as Manchester Community College president to be interim chancellor until a permanent one was picked.

Rubinstein held a number of posts at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, including vice president for student and academic services.

“Ultimately, I believe those are the essential elements for the future of public higher education,” Rubinstein said. “At the macro level, demographic, economic and technology trends all point to the need for a more dynamic workforce. At the micro level, the human level, people’s interests and circumstances and needs change.”

Former CCSNH and University System of New Hampshire Trustee Chairman Paul Holloway said the state will be well served by Rubinstein’s selection.

“We know there are significant demands on higher education to be nimble and responsive to shifting needs and changing circumstances. Mark’s experience makes him the right individual for the job at this point in time,” Holloway said.

Attacks on Sununu

The political action committee Emily’s List, one of the most robust in the nation, began airing radio commercials urging residents to contact Sununu and protest his signing of the state budget, which includes a ban on late-term abortions.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Democratic Party began its own targeted effort, which will include digital ads, news conferences, a communications program and door-to-door talks with independent voters.

“Granite Staters are ready to aggressively hold Chris Sununu accountable while he tries to hide the fact that he signed the most extreme budget New Hampshire has ever seen, which includes an abortion ban, mandatory ultrasounds, an extreme voucher program, cuts to public education, and attacks on free speech,” Chair Ray Buckley said in a statement.

Education choice push

The state chapter of Americans for Prosperity will soon begin a digital and email outreach campaign to families who might be interested in applying for these Education Freedom Accounts or vouchers for low- and middle-income families.

“We have the data, so we can target these families with less than $75,000 in family income,” Director Greg Moore said.

In the coming weeks, the state Board of Education is expected to establish guidelines to formally apply for the accounts.

On a related front, the Learn Everywhere program has seen significant growth. The program is another Sununu-backed innovation to encourage more alternative learning options that offer “hands-on, real world experience.”

Watch for an announcement confirming the launching of three new programs, which will double the number of educational options in the state.

Kevin Landrigan is the State House bureau chief for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at klandrigan@unionleader.com.