As election years go, 2020 is a banner one already. The presidential primary brought a plethora of candidates, old and new, to the Granite State to vie for the Democratic nomination. And with so much turmoil, political and otherwise, at both the national and state levels, this season has brought out many candidates, both for open seats and to challenge incumbents.
Now, things are nearing a boiling point. The state’s primaries are nearly upon us, and feature what could be close races in both parties. When voters head to the polls — or mail in their absentee ballots — they’ll have some tough choices to make. We urge readers to seek out information on all the candidates, for there are many very good ones at all levels.
Here are some thoughts on a few key primary races. Reports on each of them are available at SentinelSource.com.
Facing off against incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu, in all likelihood, will be one of two Democratic candidates: Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes or District 2 Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky.
Both lawyers by trade, they are veterans who know the ins and outs of the Statehouse. Many of their stated goals, should they become governor, are similar. Both seek to bolster efforts to move toward renewable energy sources and away from fossil fuels. Each has plans to address education funding inequities, to promote equality and health-care access, especially for women, and to give a leg up to working families. Each fought to get the state beyond the use of the death penalty.
Feltes has, in his three terms as a senator, been among the most-active lawmakers in Concord. And he hasn’t simply put forth a great number of bills; he’s pushed for substantive changes; he was the force behind the Democrats’ paid family leave legislation, as well as setting a state minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, forming an independent redistricting committee and untying keno from kindergarten funding.
Volinsky may be better known in this region, much of which he represents on the council. Still, he’s probably best known for his role as lead counsel for the five towns that sued the state beginning in the 1990s over its failure to properly fund education for New Hampshire’s children. As an executive councilor, Volinsky has brought a new, heightened degree of scrutiny to the position, poring over contracts and using his own background to research and cross-examine the governor’s nominees. He’s been so effective in that role, in fact, it seems a shame to lose him as the district’s watchdog.
Either of them would be a fine candidate for their party, we think, but we might give a slight edge to Feltes, due mainly to his proven record of being able to reach across the aisle and find compromise. Both men are tough, but Feltes strikes us as a little less combative. Volinsky’s greatest strength may be as a crusader: He’s at his best in pointing out injustice and fighting the good fight. We hope he continues to use his talents and drive in the public sphere.
But with the uncertainty of a pandemic, racial and social unrest and the general divisiveness permeating the state (and country), we see a need for someone on the governor’s office who can unite, and there, we feel Feltes has the edge.
Executive Council District 2: Republican
As Volinsky is vacating his seat on the council, however, there are primary races in both major parties to replace him. On the GOP side, Jim Beard of Lempster, who sought the seat two years ago, is vying with former congressional hopeful Stewart Levenson of Hopkinton.
Levenson, a rheumatologist at Catholic Medical Center, is a former chairman of the Department of Medicine at the VA Medical Center in Manchester. He is best known for being a key whistleblower whose evidence backed a Boston Globe expose that brought about major changes in administration there. In his 2018 primary bid to face Rep. Ann Kuster, we felt Levenson’s independence and flexibility of thinking made him the best GOP candidate. We see those same attributes as the better fit in this race.
Executive Council District 2: Democrat
The Democratic field to replace Volinsky is crowded indeed — with an abundance of riches. Six candidates have thrown their hats into the ring — former Executive Councilor John Shea of Nelson, state Rep. Craig Thompson of Harrisville, Emmett Soldati of Somersworth, and Concord lawyers Leah Plunkett, Jay Surdukowski and Cinde Warmington.
Almost any of them could step into the role of a councilor and be effective, serving with energy and attention to detail. But we again note the approach Volinsky brought to the position. We’d hate to see the council, the region and the state take a step back from having such an effective watchdog vetting nominees and parsing spending proposals.
Of the six, Plunkett strikes us as closest to that model. The Harvard Law grad and University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law professor has already demonstrated a willingness to take a deep dive into a complex subject — as she did in a Medium essay following how the governor has been spending $1.2 billion in federal CARES Act funds. She did the research, posed smart questions and noted where supporting information was insufficient. That’s the kind of scrutiny all major state spending ought to receive.