As expected by many political observers, Gov. Chris Sununu has announced that he will not run against Senator Jeanne Shaheen.
Less expected was Sununu dropping his carefully cultivated “nice guy” image, when he boasted that he would have beaten Shaheen, and said she was the least accomplished two-term senator ever in the history of New Hampshire.
I doubt Sununu knows the names and histories of every two-term Granite State senator. The longest serving was Jacob Harold Gallinger. He died in office in 1918, after serving 27 years. He also was a three- term chairman of the Republican State Committee while in the senate, giving that organization more continuity than we have seen in this century.
While I enjoy hyperbole as much as the next person, Sununu’s comments were over the top. Just by being elected to the Senate, Jeanne Shaheen did something that no one else, including Mr. Gallinger, had ever accomplished: the first woman in the country ever elected governor also to be elected to the Senate. Sununu errs in minimizing that accomplishment, as it was a big deal.
Shaheen continues to be a trailblazer. She is the only woman sitting on both the Senate Foreign Relations and the Armed Services Committees. She has worked tirelessly to protect the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, including stopping Donald Trump from including it in his raid on defense spending.
She was recently instrumental in adding $10,000,000 to the Defense Authorization Bill for a study of the impact of toxic PFAS chemicals in water, with Pease International Tradeport serving as the model site. Thousands of people in the area have been exposed to PFAS.
In addition to these and many other legislative accomplishments, Shaheen’s office also is known for being top-notch in performing constituent services.
Given all of that, Sununu’s claim that he would have beaten Shaheen rang a little hollow. It was like a little boy boasting he could have climbed that mountain — but he didn’t really feel like climbing a mountain, so he didn’t bother to try.
There currently are three Republicans expressing interest in trying to climb the mountain. Bill O’Brien, the former speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, is in the dominant, Trump wing of the GOP. A YouTube video of him speaking at a recent local Republican meeting shows him comparing himself to Trump.
Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc is considering a run. He is highly-decorated, but his traditional, non-Trumpian conservatism and calls for consensus make his path to the nomination in these times very tough, despite his resume.
Then there is Colorado attorney Bryant “Corky” Messner, the latest Republican who thinks having a New Hampshire resort vacation home is a ticket to elective office. He may want to check in with Scott Brown and Walt Havenstein on that. He also will need to explain why, if he is a New Hampshire resident, he still is listed as the CEO of his large Denver law firm. He also will need to explain to Republicans that large donation he made to New York Senator Chuck Schumer.
At this point, given the current ideological tilt of the New Hampshire Republican Party, O’Brien has the edge. However, it will be a tough general election race for him if nominated.
If it was an easy race, Sununu’s decision probably would have been very different.