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New Hampshire 2020 governor’s race gets early start as two top Dems challenge Sununu

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Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky’s entry into the 2020 governor’s race means at least two Democrats in key state government positions will seek to challenge incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu.

Also running in the Democratic gubernatorial primary is Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord.

“We are running the state, we are managing, we are doing very well,” Sununu told reporters last week in a statement published by New Hampshire Public Radio. “It has nothing to do with those two individuals.”

It remains to be seen how the challengers’ campaigns may affect Sununu’s legislative agenda. As majority leader, Feltes could strive to pass bills in stark contrast to Sununu’s policy goals. He and Sununu have long had differing views on issues like the minimum wage and tax policy.

In the past, Volinsky has shown opposition to Sununu’s nominations to state offices. He headed the Executive Council’s opposition during confirmation hearings for Frank Edelblut, Sununu’s appointee to Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education.

Sununu likely will not be able to count on support from Volinsky in naming a replacement for Jeff Myers, who is stepping down in January as Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services.

As Sununu worked this summer to appoint Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to serve as chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, Volinsky voted as a bloc against it with the Democrats on the Executive Council.

At the time, Sununu called the action political and said he would issue a pause on the judicial nomination process.

In speaking to reporters last week, he did not provide a timetable for resuming it.

“I think it would be great to be able to move forward,” Sununu said, “but I’m not going to bring folks forward if politics are a key variable in the thinking of the Executive Council.”

Sununu won re-election in 2018 by fending off a challenge from former state Sen. Molly Kelly. The Republican governor managed to easily hold onto his position despite a wave election in New Hampshire that saw Democrats take control of the Executive Council, the state Senate and the state House of Representatives.

No notable Republican challengers have emerged to take on Sununu in the Republican primary in 2020. He was unopposed in the primary in 2018; Edelblut was Sununu’s main opponent in the 2016 primary, after which Sununu defeated Democrat Colin Van Ostern to win his first term as governor.

Sununu has repeatedly been rated one of the most popular governors in the country.