CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu kicked off his first term Thursday with a pledge to find new ways to fight the state’s drug crisis and a call to end the divisive tone of the fall campaign.
“Let’s just cut right to it: We have a tendency in this body, in this State House, to be divisive, to let politics come in the way, to worry about the next election cycle,” he said. “But that is not what we are here to do.”
Sununu was sworn in as New Hampshire’s 82nd governor as his father, former governor John H. Sununu, looked on. At 42, Sununu is the nation’s youngest governor and New Hampshire’s first Republican chief executive in a dozen years.
He spoke without a prepared speech, marking a departure from his predecessor, Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, who often gave carefully crafted remarks.
Tackling the opioid crisis, expanding choice in education and recruiting new businesses emerged as Sununu’s key priorities for the new session. Democrats immediately highlighted areas of disagreement and prodded Sununu to take on initiatives, such as continuing Medicaid expansion and paid family leave. Senate Majority Leader Jeff Woodburn even accused Sununu himself of being “divisive.” Democrats plan to strongly resist passage of so-called right to work legislation, which Sununu outlined as a top priority.
“I’m concerned that, so far, Governor Sununu has focused on a divisive template of policies that make it harder for people to make ends meet and harder for people to get ahead,” Woodburn said in a statement.
With Republicans also in control of the House and Senate, working with Democrats isn’t a necessity. But Sununu planned to meet Thursday afternoon with legislative leaders from both parties.
On the drug crisis, Sununu called for more prevention programs in the schools that also educate parents about the signs and dangers of opioid abuse. And he called for greater investments in treatment programs for women, particularly mothers.
“We know it’s not the drug crisis of the 80s and 90s, we know we have to be smarter about it,” Sununu said.
Sununu, who has three children, appeared to embrace expanding school choice initiatives but offered no specifics on what form that would take. But he promised parents will have the “ultimate say” over where their children go to school, regardless of income.
As for the economy, Sununu repeated his campaign pledge to visit 100 out-of-state businesses in his first 100 days in office as part of a drive to recruit new employers to New Hampshire. He said he’s already spoken with businesses from Vermont to China. He also called for a 90-day moratorium on new regulations by state agencies.
For Sununu, the inauguration marks a formal return to an office he first sat in as a child in the 1980s. Sununu and his wife and children, along with his parents, seven brothers and sisters and numerous nieces and nephews gathered for photos before the ceremony began.
A picture of the eight Sununu children already hangs on the walls of the governor’s office, in the background of John H. Sununu’s gubernatorial portrait.
Sununu’s mother, Nancy, said watching the inauguration this time around is more exciting than it was 30 years ago.
“It’s a whole different ball game when it’s your child,” she said.
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