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At Debate, Sununu's Substance Abuse Crisis Comment Sparks Heated Back and Forth

At a debate hosted by NH1 News Wednesday night, a candidate’s comment from earlier this summer regarding how communities have handled the state’s drug crisis sparked some heated back and forth.

Back in June, Executive Councilor Chris Sununu raised some eyebrows when, asked about the state’s substance abuse crisis, he said “no one has led at the state or local level.”

When that topic came up Wednesday night, State Senator Jeanie Forrester wasted no time reminding viewers what Sununu said.

“And he has yet to apologize to state and local leaders, to law enforcement on the ground. So it’s great to hear you say you’re going to support law enforcement, but for you to take a hit at them so many months ago, it’s very, very disappointing.”

Sununu defended himself, saying his point was that all communities can do better, but Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas wasn’t about to let the issue go.

“There is no city or town that doesn’t have this crisis. We have to do more,” Sununu said.

“Since when have you come to Manchester and talked to the chief of police? When has that happened?” Gatsas asked Sununu.

“I’ve not talked to the chief of police,” Sununu said.

“I know you haven’t,” Gatsas said. “To say that there’s no local leadership, that’s just wrong.”

The candidates were also asked about marijuana decriminalization.

Forrester and Gatsas say they’re opposed, but Sununu and State Representative Frank Edelblut say they support it.

“We need to make sure that our law enforcement resources are focused on the serious crimes in our communities,” Edelblut said. “And we need to make sure that we don’t have a moral problem when we stigmatize young people for small amounts of marijuana and they now have a criminal record.”

The four candidates will square off in another debate on WMUR next week, leading up to the Sept. 13 primary.

Michael serves as NHPR's Program Director. Michael came to NHPR in 2012, working as the station's newscast producer/reporter. In 2015, he took on the role of Morning Edition producer. Michael worked for eight years at The Telegraph of Nashua, covering education and working as the metro editor.

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