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Sununu Anticipates Winter COVID-19 Surge, 'Absolutely' Plans To Revisit Ultrasound Mandate Law

Governor Sununu photo
Dan Tuohy / NHPR
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N.H. Gov. Chris Sununu

COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, and New Hampshire is no different. Gov. Chris Sununu recently visited Kentucky to meet with Gov. Andy Beshear and learn how New Hampshire can respond to the increase in COVID-19 cases. Sununu says he expects a severe wave of COVID-19 in the state over the winter.

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He joined NHPR’s Morning Edition host Rick Ganley to talk about the state’s COVID response. They also discussed redrawing lines on election maps and abortion laws in New Hampshire. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Takeaways:

  • Says he thinks COVID will be here for “potentially years.” And so we need to have a system ready to manage that.
  • Says the state has the capacity to administer booster shots, but he anticipates that local public health networks and doctor’s offices can handle administering additional doses of the vaccine.
  • Says he’s expecting a “very severe” COVID wave this winter.
  • Says he "absolutely" plans to revisit law which mandates an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion.
  • Says redistricting maps “have to make common sense.” And calls gerrymandering the 1st Congressional District to skew more GOP-friendly “really stupid.”

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Transcript:

(Editor’s note: this transcript has been edited for clarity.)

Rick Ganley: Well, let's start off. Governor Sununu, you were hospitalized last week for a stomach ulcer, and I know you received a blood transfusion. How are you feeling?

Gov. Sununu: Better, thank you for asking. And it was nice to get a lot of well-wishes. It was kind of weird to see that, you know, when you turn on the news and you're being rolled into a hospital on the news. But it was a bit scary. I didn't know what it was. I thought it might be COVID. I was feeling very dizzy and lightheaded and not quite my energy that I usually come with. And after three or four days, I checked myself into Portsmouth Hospital and thank goodness I did because it was quite severe. I had lost a lot of blood, and so they had to go through a series of transfusions that persisted throughout the day and into the next day and made sure the bleeding had all stopped. And then basically, it's about recovering and resting and being more self-aware.

And, you know, just all these kind of good things that we hear that we're supposed to be doing in our everyday lives. And appreciating that at 46, I'm not 26, and we got to take better care and just have a better work-life balance. We all do. It's not just the governor. I mean, I obviously have a pretty stressful job, but it was kind of a wake up call a little bit to say, Yeah, you know, whether it's exercising or eating a little better or just making sure we take a little time for ourselves to get away from what is just, you know, very stressful atmosphere for, you know, all over the place right now, it's important.

Rick Ganley: I mean, do you need to slow down a little or are you planning to slow down?

Gov. Sununu: Well, a little bit. Yeah. So I mean, just in that, look, I love what I do. I mean, there are aspects of this job that I love and that aren't very stressful. And there's aspects of this job that just bring on an immense amount of stress, as folks can imagine, especially through COVID. So working a bit from home this week, I'm doing a couple of hours in the State House today and maybe do a small one or two things tomorrow. So for the next couple of weeks, especially till I really get back to 100 percent, which might not be for another month, we'll limit the schedule a little bit. I got a great staff.

We've got a great team here in Concord and so we can really lean into them. And, you know, I'm always in communication, cell phones and all that. You know, I can stay in communication, but also get away a little bit and just make sure that I'm recovering as best I can.

Rick Ganley: Mostly staying home for now.

Gov. Sununu: Yeah, mostly. But I mean, I'll be in and out of the State House and a few things. I swore in a couple of judges today, actually, which was great. We need more judges on our circuit court, so I came in to swear them in. And again, you know, that's not a very high stress activity. It's actually a great thing just to know that our system is going to keep working. But yeah, we just kind of pick and choose the moments. And when I have to step back, when I'm feeling like it's getting to be too much, I just step back a little bit, but I should be back to 100 percent within the next month or so.

Rick Ganley: Well, I'm glad to hear you're feeling better.

Gov. Sununu: Yeah, thank you.

Rick Ganley: I want to talk to you about COVID vaccinations, if we could, for a minute. New Hampshire has fallen a bit now, 14th in the country in the percent of residents who have at least one dose. That's down from a pretty prominent position 6th earlier this summer. Are you looking at more aggressive approaches, as we've seen in some other states to to getting more people to get the shot?

Gov. Sununu: Absolutely. Look, we've never taken our foot off the gas. When the state was really driving the vaccine and the messaging and all of that, we were the best in the country, at one point, which was terrific. And then you get to this point, as every state has, where everyone who wants it has gotten it. And then it's about the messaging, it's about the accessibility. And so there's over 500 locations in the state where you can get a vaccine, you don't even need an appointment. And so we're encouraging folks to do that. We're encouraging folks to talk to their doctor or their pharmacist or just to understand the minimal risks and the massive benefits.

And it is not just a benefit to the individual, it's a system-wide, community benefit staying out of the hospital, taking pressure off what is already a very overtaxed health care system and just making sure that we're that people understand that, you know, some of their concerns. It isn't that their concerns aren't valid, but there are just a lot of safety measures and precautions that have already been put into place and have proven out to the validity of the vaccine, and we're going to keep pushing that message as hard as we possibly can.

Rick Ganley: Well, you know, it's become a political issue as so many things. Do I mean, do you worry about how you get that message out to people who are just saying no?

Gov. Sununu: Well, I don't worry about how we do it because I feel like we're just going to leave no stone unturned. You know, we'll try everything from digital messaging, better communication with the doctors and the pharmacists. Talk to parents. You know, through the school systems, we'll talk to employers. We have our vaccine van that can go all around. We did our vaccine even at our parks, just to kind of integrate with folks, you know, where they are. Making sure that we're going to where they are and making it as convenient as possible. You know, the vaccine van, we even put a second vaccine van out into communities because it was so overbooked, which is a really good sign. And we have about a thousand people a week right now getting vaccinated.

So anything and everything, we can try. Different voices, different individuals just pushing that message. Trusted voices is the most important way to do it. And you've seen, look, other parts of the countries have different challenges with getting the vaccine out. You know, we've been fairly successful here, but this is going to be with us for a long time, and so I just try to keep imposing on people. It's not like if you don't get vaccinated today in six months, it's all going to go away and this will be a thing of the past. I think it's going to be here for potentially years. And so we need to have a system stood up that can manage that. And we need folks to understand that responsibility isn't just for today. It really is a long term issue that, you know, can benefit themselves in their family and their community as a whole.

Rick Ganley: Let me ask you a little bit about that messaging, Governor. You did sign the so-called Medical Freedom Law that says vaccines cannot be required to access public buildings, public colleges like UNH. We are seeing the problems that are arising from that unvaccinated population. Are you worried a little bit that we should be putting more focus on vaccines rather than telling people, "Nah, maybe they're not necessary."

Gov. Sununu: Well, I don't think from the state perspective, we're not saying vaccines aren't necessary, no one has ever even slightly implied that at all.

Rick Ganley: Well, you're right. Let me rephrase that. I mean, are you worried a little bit about [whether it sounds] like a mixed message, though, when you say that we're not going to mandate this.

Gov. Sununu: No, well, look, we are not going to mandate vaccines, nobody wants to mandate vaccines, even Washington doesn't want to mandate vaccines. That's absolutely the wrong approach. You have to appreciate that there's a lot of folks that aren't vaccinated. A third or more of our population isn't vaccinated. It isn't one political party, it isn't one age demographic, although the older demographic seems to be much more vaccinated than the younger.

But as you go through that, you realize, you know, there are a lot of young women who are teachers or nurses that are concerned about the vaccine because they may get pregnant later on. And so you have to have the right message for them in terms of the safety as it pertains to fertility and things like that. [Editor’s note: to date, there’s no research showing the vaccine has a negative affect on a person’s ability to get pregnant]. And you want them to engage with their doctor to have those discussions. There are folks that, you know, for a variety of reasons. "Oh, I'll get it. I'll get the vaccine when I go and finally see my doctor." "Well, when's that?" "Well, maybe early next year?" No, you want to push them. They're willing to do it, but they're doing it, kind of. They're not doing it out of a lack of convenience.

Gov. Sununu: So you want to engage them on the messaging at that level. So I think that's why I really push the no stone unturned because a lot of folks are choosing not to get it for a whole spectrum of reasons. It isn't just one constituency or one issue. So when it comes to making sure that, look, this is, we're not going to get the whole, not everyone is going to be vaccinated tomorrow. If you start cutting off services and all of this sort of thing to the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated, you're just really accentuating the problem, right? You're creating the haves and the have nots and all of that. So as opposed to saying, Look, we need to move forward. The vaccine works right, so you know, show its safety and show, unfortunately, some of the real tragic stories that you're seeing in other parts of the country where you see in Florida or parts of the South or California, where you see young people that are in the hospitals and those are real stories, they're not anomalies, they're becoming much more common.

Rick Ganley: I was going to ask you, though, a quick follow up on that. You are seeing some states, though in some, you know, for health workers being mandated to take the vaccine. For instance, in Massachusetts, critical care workers are being mandated. You don't see the need for any of that in the health care setting.

Gov. Sununu: They are likely. Look, if a health care institution here wants to mandate the vaccine, they absolutely have the ability to do that. I've talked to many of those CEOs, and they all say that when that happens, they could lose up to 10 percent of their workforce, and they know that. Losing 10 percent of the health care workforce would be devastating to our health care system. So while it is their choice to do that, and I don't shun that at all, it is a factor. They have to understand the repercussions of doing that. And so, you know, one of the examples I'll give is that the federal government has mandated that nursing homes require the vaccine for nursing home staff. You know, in the case of our veterans home here in New Hampshire, we have 99 percent of our veterans in our veterans home, the residents, are vaccinated, right? That's wonderful. And about 80 percent, even higher, of the staff. We have one of the highest vaccinated staff.

If you start mandating a vaccine, maybe you get five or 10 staff that walk out the door that say, Look, I'm going to go work at Home Depot. I could get 20 bucks an hour working at Home Depot. What's more dangerous, having a vaccinated resident with an unvaccinated nurse or having a vaccinated resident with no nurse to care for them? Right. So it's not a black and white issue. You have to understand there are consequences, pushes and pulls, pros and cons to each side of this and every health care institution facility is different. And so they really are the ones that have to look at their staffing dynamics, their transmissivity rate, what it really would do to staffing. Maybe it would have no effect. That would be great, but some might. It might have a more significant effect which is why they really need to be making those decisions on a localized level.

Rick Ganley: Let's talk about the possibility of booster shots. The state has shut down its testing and vaccination sites, you know, relying now on the private sector, local public health networks and doctor's offices. As you said, there are hundreds of locations around the state where people can get a vaccine. But we do know that New Hampshire's health care system is chronically understaffed, as you were just pointing out, as we see cases surge. Is there an expectation that residents will soon be eligible for a booster, and you think the private health care system can adequately, you know, take care of all the demand?

Gov. Sununu: Right now yes, the answer to both of those is yes and yes. I think the booster will be authorized sometime in the next three or four weeks we hear out of Washington, right? So that's really up to them. But that's our rough time frame. We've engaged with, again, pharmacies and doctors. 500 locations already give the vaccines so all those locations could give the booster. One of the big unknowns is we don't know how many people are going to want the booster, right? I mean, we want everyone to get it, of course. But will all the folks that got vaccinated all come in to get the booster? Maybe, maybe not. And my guess and it's just a guess, but I think it's safe to say it may be likely that we may all need a booster every single year. So if you put the state in the position of, you know, we're the booster guys now, we're really going to be doing that every single year. I'm going to have to call the National Guard out every single year. It's a health care issue.

And so we really want to make sure that the health care system is the right one in place, because they're the ones that really should be delivering, you know, the vaccines whether it's a flu shot or a COVID shot or whatever it might be. And so we're working with them now to make sure that we do have that capacity. We feel very confident that it's there. One of the big unknowns is exactly how many people and at what time folks are going to come in. I'm doing this off the top of my head, about 300,000 people between now and December, now in November, would be eligible for a booster. So what percentage of those will come in? And again, yes, we want to really lean into the hospitals, the providers and the nurses and the pharmacies to really provide that system of care because they may have to do it into perpetuity.

Rick Ganley: But you do feel that the capacity is there.

Gov. Sununu: Right now, yes. I mean, it's a staffing crunch, there's no doubt about it. But yeah, right now we feel it's there. And if it's not, we'll step up and find a stopgap solution. We're not going to let the system fail. Nothing like that.

Rick Ganley: Possibly see large distribution sites, state run sites again?

Gov. Sununu: I hope not. No, that's not anticipated. That's not anticipated right now, because remember, the booster will also be given out. It won't be a whole bunch of people coming in at once, right? It'll be folks kind of coming in over time. They're not all going to come in on the eight month due date so to say. Maybe they'll come in in month nine or 10 or 11. So in many ways, it'll be a little more spread out and even-keeled, if you will, as opposed to the big bolus of vaccinations we had to do in a three or four month span. So that also in itself should help take some of the burden off the system. But we'll watch it day to day and keep engaging with the hospitals to see what needs are there.

Rick Ganley: Nearly a quarter of the new cases that we are seeing, Governor Sununu, are among children 18 or younger. You said vaccination is the most important strategy as opposed to wearing masks. But vaccinations are not possible for elementary schoolers, as you know. Why not mandate masks in the schools until those vaccinations are available for that age group?

Gov. Sununu: Well, again, a couple of things. You know, we didn't mandate masks last year in schools either. We made sure it was a localized decision and it worked very, very, very well. We might have a small outbreak here or there, but there were very few outbreaks across our school systems and every system is so different. Folks have heard me say this a lot, but it's so very true that, you know what happens at Manchester Central High School might be very different than what happens at Colebrook Elementary, and so you have to appreciate those dynamics. It could be the rate of transmissivity is different, the way classrooms are set up are different.

And when it comes to, you know, the prevention, obviously the vaccine is 99 percent of the game. Frankly, if you get vaccinated, you know the 99 percent chance — even if you get a breakthrough case, you won't end up in a hospital. It's so powerful.

Rick Ganley: Sure, but at the elementary level, of course, kids who are 11 and under can't be vaccinated. So you know, the next best case would be for them to have a mask on, no?

Gov. Sununu: Again, we call it the Swiss cheese effect, right? So there's masking, there's social distancing, there's how you interact inside, there's how you interact outside. There's all these other pieces of the puzzle that we've put together and give as guidance to schools and that they have that all have to come into play. It isn't if you wear a mask, you're protected, if you don't wear a mask, you're not. Look, masks work. They're incredibly powerful, there's no doubt.

But let's remember some of the states with the highest rate of COVID have had mask mandates, right? So you know, it's not just a one size fits all. And so Dr. [Benjamin] Chan, [the state’s epidemiologist] and I really try to make sure folks know that there's a whole spectrum of opportunities and possibilities to help manage.

And again, if a district wants to put that into place, absolutely, we support that right and their ability to do that. And if a district says, look, we have a low transmissibility and we can manage through other means and if for whatever reason, the masks are causing other problems, then of course they have that choice as well. Local control on that issue, especially as it pertains to schools when you're dealing with parents and teachers and different, different data points, that's really where that debate and discussion has to happen.

Rick Ganley: Okay. I do want to ask you about your trip to Kentucky. You went there to learn more about that state's COVID response. Why specifically Kentucky?

Gov. Sununu: Well, you know, we looked at a couple of different states, frankly. I mean, other states could have been better or worse than that. There were a couple of reasons. Number one, HCA is a hospital association, the National Hospital Association, and they run Portsmouth Hospital. And so we called over there and they had a partner hospital in Kentucky that they could put us in quick touch with. Because, you know, every day that went by, I just know this large surge is going to come. Our hospital system is actually, I think we have the fourth lowest hospitalization rate in the country right now, but the rest of the country is under a huge amount of stress.

Kentucky in particular, we had looked at some of the innovative things that they had been trying to do both at a state level and a localized level. So we thought it might be interesting to go there and again their system was, if I will, overwhelmed, but not at the point of breaking. It wasn't as bad as some of these other states, and they also have another demographic similarity with us in that they have very rural areas and they have small cities. Louisville is the one difference.

Louisville is a very big city, but for most of the health care system it's taking care of small cities and rural areas in those catchment areas of health care. And when we picked up the phone, they were very gracious and said, "Absolutely, would love to help, when would you like to come?" And so it just all worked out very well, and it was a very successful trip.

Rick Ganley: Well, let me ask you, you were on the ground for part of the day. What did you learn?

Gov. Sununu: Oh boy. There was a lot. So I mean, first I spent some time with Governor Beshear. Some of the things that they're doing, not just at the state level, but, you know, more importantly, the data that they were seeing based on some of those decisions. We spent a lot of time that day within the four walls of the hospital, a couple of different institutions we went to. How they're dealing with staffing, right? So for example, you know, they did a very smart thing. They're trying to get all their testing out of hospitals. If you need a COVID test, don't go to a hospital, don't overwhelm that staff.

So the state is taking on a lot of the roles of testing, and we're going to look to do that as well because as COVID increases, testing demands will increase as well. So that's one way. How they're pushing therapeutics, very important, what therapeutics they're using, how they're working, how the early stage intervention of those therapeutics is keeping people out of the hospital. You know, if someone goes to the hospital with early symptoms, get them right on the therapeutics and sometimes they don't even have to spend the night. They can actually go home right, right that day. And that's a very powerful tool.

The other big thing that we're looking at is how they're managing their surge. You know, we had set up a system last year where we could do these external surge centers with the National Guard. Very, very powerful and we could set them up very quickly.

Gov. Sununu: But what they found in Kentucky is having internal surge phases. So in other words, as they get overwhelmed in the ICU, they already have predetermined plans that say this and this and this will be the next elective things to go and we can reuse those beds and we'll re-transport this staff, we'll retrain them into this type of capacity that can deal with COVID a little better. What they're also seeing is, and what we are seeing as well nationally, a lot of folks are coming into hospitals for non-COVID issues. Hospitals are just very busy right now with non-COVID stuff and the chain reaction that COVID is creating within those hospital systems. People aren't getting their biopsies on time.

People with a minor heart issue aren't getting that preventative care they should. And so understanding how that chain reaction not just as it pertains to COVID, but the chain reaction as more folks are coming in for delayed preventative medicine is really having an effect. So I could keep going on. But Commissioner Shibinette and I did a little op-ed this past week, and that's out in the papers. And we encourage folks to look at it. I'm just trying to prepare. I really think that this wave this winter is going to be very severe, and I just want to make sure that we're doing everything we possibly can. It's going to be very tough. I mean, there's no doubt

Rick Ganley: I appreciate that, Governor, I want to turn to some other news if we have a few minutes here. I know you're holding a series of public events. I don't know how your illness will affect that, but I know you've held these Super 603 events and you invited the public to a Fisher Cat's game next week. Your social media is full of some selfies you've taken, maskless with strangers in indoor settings. I'm wondering about that image. I'm wondering if there's a mixed message there.

Gov. Sununu: No, no. First, the Fisher Cats game is outside and outdoors, and we want everyone to come. Free tickets, free food for everyone. It's just our way of saying thank you and giving back a little bit after the folks responded so well. We did a train ride last week, which was great. And again, look, if folks are vaccinated, they're vaccinated. And if they're not, they're making that choice at this point in time for themselves. So we don't have any evidence of cases of COVID or spread on the train or anything like that. So you know, we're actually going to bring the vaccine van to the Fisher Cats Stadium just to encourage folks to get vaccines there. So no, look, we are getting back to normal and very much have.

And like I said, COVID is going to be with us for quite some time. And so, you know, whether it's going to a baseball game or coming out and kind of enjoying, I think, some of the many great things that we have to offer in the state and being able to give that to folks to the state and let families come out and have a little fun. It's just a way to say thank you. It doesn't mean that we are free and clear of COVID, doesn't mean that we're declaring victory or anything like that. You know, we've been very consistent in our messaging. This is with us. It's going to be with us for some time. We want folks to get vaccinated. But you know, there's also a return to normalcy that has to happen as well.

Rick Ganley: It doesn't mean you might be running for another office, does it?

Gov. Sununu: No. You mean the Thank You Tour stuff? Yeah, no, no, no, no. Look, I didn't have an inaugural ball, and inaugural balls can be a little self-indulgent, if you will. And so I said, look, let's raise some money, but let's not do it for ourselves. Let's do it for the folks in New Hampshire. I don't know what I'm going to do. I mean, I really don't politically. I'm blessed with the idea that I'm not really thinking about that right now. I'll start thinking about it a little more in the next coming months, but nothing I'm really diving into right now. Or who knows, maybe I'll wake up tomorrow and just the epiphany will hit me and I'll make a decision. That's just kind of the way I roll.

Rick Ganley: Really, you haven't given it any more thought?

Gov. Sununu: Not really. I had a conversation with the family a little bit about it a few weeks ago, and it was nice. My wife and kids were very supportive about whatever I wanted to do. I think they know, you know, I do enjoy public service. I do. And obviously, I love being governor. I just don't know if my skill set would fit with the Senate. Maybe it would. Maybe it's something that the Senate desperately needs. I think it is. I think the Senate needs lots of good managers, to be sure, but I've got to make sure it's the right fit for me. So the path is wide open.

And you know, somebody asked me this last week, they said, "Gee, you know, with this illness, does it change your mindset?" And I said, "Well, the truth is, being a senator is, you know, frankly a lot easier than being a governor. It's a lot more relaxing, and maybe a little more stress free." But even that doesn't really affect my decision any.

Rick Ganley: Let's turn to some other state news. We asked our listeners to write in with some questions for you. Earlier this summer, you signed a law that requires ultrasounds before someone can get an abortion. But you did say "We can always go back in and fix it in the next six months." And several listeners asked if you have any concerns at this point that the ultrasound mandate is unnecessary or an invasion of privacy and whether you plan to revisit the law?

Gov. Sununu: I absolutely plan to revisit the law. And so, you know, we've taken kind of some of that feedback over the past few months and we're hearing it. We're listening to it. You know, the law that was put into place really, you know, goes against late term abortions in months seven, eight and nine, which are extremely rare in New Hampshire, if they ever happen and they really are extremely rare. But the other stipulations that go along with that, if they're too onerous or if they don't make sense, then absolutely, I'm always willing to go back and look at changing that, and I suspect we'll be doing that in the next couple of months.

Rick Ganley: You have said you're pro-choice and you said you don't support a Texas-style ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. But some Republicans in the Legislature here in Concord say they do plan to introduce such a bill in the next session. I'm wondering what your opinion is of that.

Gov. Sununu: I hope it dies before it even gets to my desk because the only thing waiting for that bill is a veto pen. That's an extreme. Look, I'm a pro-choice governor. I support Roe v. Wade and that's just a level of extremism you're seeing in Texas that I don't think has any place here in New Hampshire.

Rick Ganley: Your decision to end COVID unemployment benefits early in New Hampshire has not significantly so far pushed people back into the workforce. Many industries, of course, are still facing those hiring shortages. One of our listeners, Audrey, submitted this question via Twitter. She said, "What is the plan to move the workforce shortage in the right direction?"

Gov. Sununu: So a couple of things. When we first announced that the federal benefits were going away in May, we did see about 10-15,000 people over those next couple of weeks kind of reenter the workforce. Remember we ended our benefits, we were one of the first states to do it, and we did see a big bit of a [unclear word] and our unemployment rate dropped.

The issue we really have is folks that are not on unemployment, have not been collecting it for some time, but just also haven't been in the workforce either, right? They've kind of stepped out. And you know, it's a little bit anecdotal, but those are folks, maybe they're elderly that were working a retail position, and they just aren't comfortable doing the face to face things. So, you know, it was their retirement job and now they've stepped out, or it was their part time seasonal job and now they've stepped out and haven't reengaged. Maybe it was a two parent working family that became a one-parent working family because the kids were home, right, because of school or something. And so we're kind of hoping that some of those individuals reengage with the workforce. They're not collecting unemployment. They've just stepped out because there's a lot of federal money coming in, all of those sorts of things.

Gov. Sununu: So our hope is that as we hit right about this week, right, kids are going back to school, not only as we're getting "getting back to normal," but our schedules are getting back to normal. And hopefully, that'll kind of reinvigorate folks to really get back to the workforce, especially with kids back in. And maybe they took the time over the summer to enjoy the vacation that was stolen from them in 2020, and now they're going to get back in. I think the Department of Employment Security has done a phenomenal job.

They have virtual job fairs, they have one-on-one job fairs. We have job fairs with hundreds of available jobs all over the state. And the amazing part today is, boy, it is an employees market, right? Wages are as high as they've ever been. I mean, everyone is getting paid more money than they even thought imaginable. And businesses are willing to do it because they need that workforce in there. So we're just encouraging folks to get out there and engage with those opportunities. And you know, the rising tide floats all boats when it comes to the economy.

Rick Ganley: Let me give you one last question. The state is now in the process of redrawing the lines on election maps. Some of our listeners wrote in with concerns about gerrymandering. You said you won't approve any maps that don't quote "pass the smell test." Can you tell me what that means?

Gov. Sununu: Well, first and foremost it means, look at the map, right? I mean, you can tell when something is winding in and out, right? So let's just look at the thing as step one, does this make logical sense? Are we drawing lines down the middle of major cities? That's silly. Shouldn't be doing that. Are we keeping a relative balance, you know, on one side of the state or the other? Or, you know, when you're looking at the bigger congressional districts and things like that. But even with our House and Senate seats, you know, you just have to be able to look at the map. Does it make sense that this town is connected to that town or were they really clearly trying to stretch to make that happen? It's not rocket science. There's a little bit of a formula to it, but it's really not rocket science. I couldn't tell you what the map is going to look like.

The Legislature is going to propose a couple of different options. And I'll have some input here and there. But I've told them, you know, the one big glaring gerrymandering thing that we have in the state is probably that Executive Council District Two. But there's nothing else that's that glaring, but doesn't mean they won't possibly change. So we'll take a look at it and whatever it is, it just has to. It just has to make common sense.

Rick Ganley: But there are a few people in your party that have openly stated that they do want to make that first congressional district a little more GOP friendly.

Gov. Sununu: That's stupid. That's really stupid. Let me tell you. Districts and elections and public service, it's won with good candidates. If you don't have a good candidate, I don't care how good you make the district, you, quote unquote "make it." We're a purple state, right? We're a very purple state. You have very, more liberal towns like Exeter, right next to very conservative towns like Hampton Falls, and they're all going to be in the same district one way or the other, very often in those cases. So there are cases like that all over the state, and I'm just a big believer that that's just a bunch of political nonsense that really has no place and never really pans out.

Remember, in 2010, I heard, boy, the Executive Council is going to be four to one Republican for the next 10 years. Within a year of somebody telling me that, I was the only Republican left on the Executive Council because it doesn't work, right? It's a bad system when people try to do that. It's not right that they try to do it. And so that's why I say it's just going to make common sense regardless of what other people on the political spectrum want to say. It's about good candidates and just going to sell yourself at a retail political level. That's what gets the job done in New Hampshire.