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MEMORANDUM: NHGOP Gov Primary: A Self-Destructive Race to the Right

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MEMORANDUM: NHGOP Gov Primary: A Self-Destructive Race to the Right

To: Interested Parties

From: Elisabeth Pearson, Democratic Governors Association Executive Director

Date: 9/13/2016

No matter who emerges from New Hampshire’s GOP gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, voters will be faced with a far-right Republican that is out of step with Granite State voters.

New Hampshire has a history of moderate governors – but the four Republican gubernatorial candidates have spent the last year tripping over themselves in a self-destructive race to the right. On issue after issue, the four Republican candidates have publicly repeated views that don’t align with the people of New Hampshire.

From opposing Planned Parenthood, minimum wage and Medicaid expansion to supporting Donald Trump for president and denying human’s impact on climate change, New Hampshire’s GOP gubernatorial field is united by an ideology of the extreme right.

The four-way primary – between Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester and state Rep. Frank Edelblut – has grown increasingly acrimonious over the past weeks.

Repeatedly – and often on videotape – the four Republican candidates tied themselves to a toxic agenda that is unlikely to sit well with voters in purple state New Hampshire. No matter who wins the primary, he or she will have to defend these out-of–step views on many issues including women’s health, Donald Trump, minimum wage, climate change and Medicaid expansion.

On the Issues

Planned Parenthood

New Hampshire is one of the five most pro-choice states in the country, according to Pew Research. Exit polls from 2012 show that 71% of New Hampshire voters support a woman’s right to choose

On top of that, polls show 66% of Granite State voters oppose efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. But all four candidates have supported defunding Planned Parenthood, and several have even called for new investigations into the organization.

  • In 2015 Sununu was the Deciding Vote Against Planned Parenthood Contract Citing Ongoing Investigations; In August 2016 Sununu Said he Would be Open to Investigating Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. In August 2015, Chris Sununu was the deciding vote in the Executive Council to reject funding for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. According to a Sununu press release, “There is precedent for rejecting state contracts when the applicant has been under investigation and surrounded by controversy, and given the sensitivity and seriousness of this issue, Planned Parenthood should be held to a similar standard of scrutiny.” In an August 2016 primary debate Sununu was asked, “Would you open up an investigation?” Sununu said, “If someone wants to call for an investigation in terms of what Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, that’s the local group that we work with here, if someone wants to call for that, we can look at that, to be sure. If there’s a real serious accusation that something within this group is happening, then sure, but at the heart of your question is we need a governor who is going to open up the process, make it easier for some of these providers to bid on these contracts, because they’re there.” [NH1 Gubernatorial Debate, 23:10, 8/31/16]
  • In August 2016, When Asked About Planned Parenthood, Gatsas Said he “Just Wouldn’t Fund” the Organization. In a gubernatorial primary debate hosted by NH1, Steinhauser asked Gatsas, “And would you open up an investigation?” Gatsas said, “I just wouldn’t fund Planned Parenthood.” [NH1 Gubernatorial Debate, 23:45, 8/31/16]
  • In August 2016, Forrester Said “We Shouldn’t Be Funding Planned Parenthood.” In a gubernatorial primary debate hosted by NH1, Steinhauser asked Forrester about Planned Parenthood. Forrester said, “Well, I am a pro-life candidate. I believe we need to protect the life of the unborn child. […] I don’t believe we should be funding abortions. I don’t believe we should be funding Planned Parenthood. And if there was a call for an investigation, certainly it is something I would look into and support.” [NH1 Gubernatorial Debate, 24:20, 8/31/16]
  • In August 2016, Edelblut Said He Wouldn’t Fund Planned Parenthood And Would Consider an Investigation. In a gubernatorial primary debate hosted by NH1, Steinhauser asked Edelblut about Planned Parenthood. Edelblut answered, “So I am a pro-life candidate and I don’t believe that taxpayer money should go to abortion providers. This is such a divisive issue, people on both sides of this, that we don’t need to muddy it up with taxpayer money. […] In terms of an investigation, what we really need to work on is transparency into Planned Parenthood and the activities that are taking place there. And so, if someone called for an investigation, I would take that seriously and consider it.” [NH1 Gubernatorial Debate, 25:15, 8/31/16]

Minimum wage

New Hampshire is the only New England state without a statewide minimum wage. At the federal level of $7.25 per-hour, the state is tied for paying workers the lowest minimum wage in the country.

Despite polling indicating broad bipartisan support for raising the minimum wage in New Hampshire, the GOP gubernatorial field has resisted and shares a position even further to the right of Donald Trump:

  • All Four Candidates, When Asked if New Hampshire Should Have A Minimum Wage, Said “No.” MCELVEEN: “Okay, and lastly—just to get you on record: once again going from Frank Edelblut all the way down to Jeanie Forrester, should New Hampshire have a minimum wage? MCELVEEN: “Mayor Gatsas?”


MCELVEEN: “Mayor Gatsas?”




[WMUR Republican Debate, 9/6/16]

Donald Trump

As an electoral swing state, New Hampshire is a place where the 2016 presidential election matters:

“New Hampshire is one of the states where the presidential nominees matter and could tip the scale a bit one way or the other,” Cook Political Report wrote in August.

That factor spells trouble in a state where voters are rejecting Donald Trump by 62% of voters, but the GOP gubernatorial candidates are leaning in:

  • All Four New Hampshire GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Embrace Donald Trump for President. Allie Morris: “If you were asked by a child, why were you voting for Donald Trump, what would you say?” 

GATSAS: “Donald Trump is somebody that I look at, I support, and I endorse.” 

FORRESTER: “I will support, proudly, our Republican nominee.” 

EDELBLUT: “I will gladly support our nominee.”  

SUNUNU: “I have always said I would support the nominee, it’s Donald Trump, and I support him. I endorse him.”

[WMUR Republican Debate, 9/6/16]

Former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu – Chris Sununu’s own father – offered his own take on Trump’s impact of the gubernatorial race:

“Up here in New Hampshire, if Donald Trump is the nominee we will not get a Republican governor, we will lose the New Hampshire state senate and we could lose the New Hampshire state house,” Sununu told Bloomberg Politics in January.

Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid expansion is another issue where the GOP gubernatorial candidates are out of touch with New Hampshire voters.

A sweeping 66% of voters favored Medicaid expansion that extended quality health care to nearly 50,000 state residents and provides 6,000 people with substance abuse treatment.

But where are the Republican gubernatorial candidates on Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire?

Unanimously opposed.

  • Edelblut was a Leader Opposing Medicaid Expansion. According to the Union Leader, “His words were echoed by Rep. Frank Edelblut, R-Wilton, who was one of the people leading the charge in the House against extending the program. ‘We’re talking about able-bodied folks,’ he said. ‘The goal is to help people out of poverty, and you get out of poverty by working.’” [Union Leader, 4/7/16]
  • Sununu Voted Against Considering Medicaid Expansion Recommendations and Voted Against a $292 Million Contract Funding Expansion. According to the Union Leader, “As an Executive Councilor, Sununu voted against a special session to consider Medicaid expansion recommendations in 2013. He also voted against a $292 million contract in 2014 for the Medicaid expansion (he said his vote against it was based on the contract being a late agenda item, and the council had little time to review it).” [Union Leader, 4/7/16]
  • Gatsas Said Medicaid Expansion is Not a Long-Term Solution. According to the Union Leader, “Gatsas said he does not believe Medicaid expansion is the long-term solution. ‘Other states have come up with interesting programs to address health care coverage for low-income people not covered by traditional Medicaid,’ Gatsas said. ‘As governor, I would explore those and develop a program that ensures we are protecting our vulnerable citizens and our taxpayers alike.” [Union Leader, 4/7/16]
  • Forrester Voted Against Medicaid Expansion Program. According to the Union Leader, “Forrester, a three-term senator from Meredith, voted last week against Medicaid expansion.” [Union Leader, 4/6/16]

Climate Change

In their race to the right, all four candidates questioned the effects of climate change and deny human impact on global warming:

  • All Four Republican Candidates Said They Don’t Believe Climate Change is Manmade. According to WMUR, “On climate change, all four Republican candidates said they don’t believe there is enough proof that human activity is solely or mostly responsible for rising temperatures across the globe in recent years.” [WMUR, 9/6/16]

SUNUNU: “Nobody knows absolutely one way or the other whether it’s manmade or not”

GATSAS: “I don’t believe in it because I know that we might have had a very mild winter this year.”

FORRESTER: “While there might be climate change, how much of that is manmade I’m not really sure.”

EDELBLUT: “We don’t know is if that is manmade. We don’t know what the causes of it are.”

[WMUR Republican Debate, 9/6/16]


On some of the state’s most important issues, the GOP gubernatorial candidates in New Hampshire are simply at odds with the state’s mainstream voters.

After a run to the right during the Republican primary, it will be impossible for the eventual GOP nominee to run away from a far-right record on touchstone issues in New Hampshire.

Four candidates GOP candidates are the ballot on Tuesday, but the choice in November will be clear: An out-of-touch Republican that will alienate voters across all political spectrums, or a Democratic candidate who will continue New Hampshire’s history of moderate leadership and fight for opportunities for all Granite State residents.