CONCORD — Two-term Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky of Concord officially kicked off his Democratic primary campaign for governor Wednesday.
“I believe that through real, honest conversations with the people of New Hampshire we can make meaningful change in our state,” said Volinsky, 63, during a video his campaign released.
“Access to quality education, clean air and water, and good-paying jobs shouldn’t be dependent on your zip code. But if we allow the same leaders to keep trying the same failed approaches, we can’t expect different outcomes.”
During an interview, Volinsky said the top issues in this campaign are support for public schools, climate change, health care and income inequality.
A lawyer in Manchester, Volinsky has in the past been a supporter of changing the state’s revenue structure through a state income tax.
In this race, Volinsky said he would refuse to take the pledge to veto a state sales or income tax but would not say if he would propose one during this campaign.
“My not taking this pledge allows there to be a conversation in this campaign that really needs to be had,” Volinsky said.
Over the past year, Volinsky has hosted with former New Hampshire Legal Assistance Executive Director John Tobin public forums across the state about the over-reliance on local property taxes to pay for schools.
“I think John Tobin and I started on the right path which was to inform the public of the situation, help them understand the dynamics and be prepared to listen,” Volinsky said.
Asked if he would present a plan during this race, he said, “The campaign is more than a year long. Let’s see how the response is and we’ll take it from there.”
Two-term Gov. Chris Sununu, a Newfields Republican, has already announced he will seek another two-year term in 2020.
The other declared Democratic candidate is Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes of Concord.
Both Sununu and Feltes have taken the pledge to veto a broadbased tax.
Republican State Chairman Stephen Stepanek of Bristol said the GOP is looking forward to observing the Democratic primary.
“Andru Volinsky has served an obstructionist role on the Executive Council this past term, and his lackluster announcement today has made it clear why,” Stepanek said in a statement. “He has constantly put politics and political self-interests before Granite Staters. We fully expect the primary fight between Dan Feltes and Andru Volinsky to be a bitter and divisive race to the left as they both double down on income taxes and their economy ruining agenda. New Hampshire Republicans stand proudly united behind Governor Chris Sununu.”
Feltes for Governor Campaign Manager Nick Taylor issued a statement that didn’t mention Volinsky by name.
“We’re grateful for all of the support Senator Feltes’s campaign has received and we remain focused on stopping a third term for Chris Sununu next year,” Taylor said.
“A third term in office for Chris Sununu would be good news for the well-connected and the entitled elite, but not for the rest of us as this has been one of the least transparent and most-partisan administrations in recent memory.”
Volinsky first ran and won his seat on the council in 2016 when incumbent Colin Van Ostern, a fellow Concord Democrat, faced off against Sununu for governor and narrowly lost.
Before taking this seat, Volinsky was, with Tobin, one of the lead lawyers who sued the state over education aid and convinced the Supreme Court to rule in 1997 that its past over-reliance on local property taxes was unconstitutional.
“I know what it’s like to be the underdog. It’s why I fought for school funding in the 90s, it’s why I’ve stayed involved and it’s why I ran for the Executive Council,” Volinsky said in his video. “Now I want to take that spirit to the governor’s office.”Prior to taking this step, Volinsky had revealed he had more than 200 party activists supporting his campaign a group that includes former U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH and ex-Senate President Beverly Hollingworth, D-Hampton.
“Fortunately, Andru Volinsky is ready to lead our state. I know he will be a great governor for New Hampshire,” Shea-Porter said.
Feltes got into the race a few months ago and since then has gotten endorsements from seven fellow state senators, a few unions and Van Ostern.
Volinsky said if he’s elected he would bring a more hands-on management style than Sununu has.
“A governor should have a vision and a plan for New Hampshire’s future, and should have the skills to manage our state with fairness and fiscal savvy,” Volinsky said. “Chris Sununu has not had a vision or a plan, and he has not been able to manage our state well.”
While at the council table, Volinsky said Sununu has shown that he doesn’t pay enough attention to detail on the job.
“He doesn’t have a grasp on the details of government,” Volinsky said. “This is the first skill any governor should bring to the work, which is to pay attention.”
Another Democrat who publicly hasn’t ruled out his own primary race for governor in 2020 is former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, who ran for the post in both 2016 and 2018.
Volinsky’s district is one of the most Democratic-leaning on the five-person board.
Franklin Pierce School of Law professor Leah Plunkett, a Concord Democrat, announced Wednesday she is considering a run for the Dist 2 seat.
Volinsky and his wife, Amy, are parents of three grown children.