In the final days of the 2020 campaign, we’re taking a few moments to hear closing arguments from candidates for statewide office.
NHPR's Peter Biello spoke with Gov. Chris Sununu about why he's seeking a third term.
Peter Biello: We wanted to give you this opportunity to make your closing argument ahead of Election Day. Why should you be re-elected as governor?
Chris Sununu: Well, I tell you, the state has been through a lot over the past year. If we learned anything, it's about management. You've got to have the right team. You've got to hold folks accountable to results. I think we've gotten tremendous results here in the state. And looking forward - because elections need to be forward looking - you've got to look at what the challenges are going to be. It's going to be making sure our economy is back on track. I think we've had a tremendous record on that. We've got one of the strongest economies on the East Coast. We've got to make sure that you're managing COVID. Because we're not out of this by January first, by any means.
Over the next year, there's going to be a lot of dynamics in managing COVID and testing and schools and contact tracing. We've done a tremendous job. The team has done a great job with that, and I think, again, we need to make sure we keep the management in place and those metrics, if you will, in place as we go forward. A lot of folks, I'm hearing, people are concerned about safety in their communities and we've, I think, done a very good job bringing law enforcement together, trying to take steps, progressive steps forward, the right steps forward. If anything, I think the LEACT commission, the Law Enforcement Accountability Commission that we put together in sixty days came back with dozens and dozens of recommendations that everybody could agree on.
One thing I just keep going back to is results, accountability. You have to hold everybody, whether you're on the planning board or running for governor, everyone has to be held to the accountability of their results, and we've gotten very good results, and there's clearly still a lot of work to do.
Let's talk about a some of the work that's left to be done. If you're re-elected, you'll be faced with a number of pandemic-related problems, which will likely persist even after a vaccine is developed and distributed, and one of those is that kids will likely have not progressed in their education as well as they otherwise would have in the pandemic, given all the COVID-19 disruptions to schooling. This slide will only increase between now and when a vaccine is available, and it'll be worse for kids whose parents aren't resourced enough to provide various forms of technology. So Governor Sununu, what is your plan to provide an equitable catch-up plan for these families after we have a vaccine and people can safely go back to school?
You've hit the nail on the head. This is one of the biggest issues we have. This is why I'm adamant about getting schools open. Eighty-five percent of the schools in the state are open in some form, whether it's hybrid and or fully open. No outbreaks to date. We may have outbreaks, and a few cases here or there, of course. But the fact that, at a local level, by providing the flexibility we did, we were able to have that success and it's one of the most common things I hear from parents out there. Not political, not Republican or Democrat, across the board, our kids have to get back to school, they have to resocialize, because they're seeing the model work in so many other parts of the state.
So: technology, broadband. We're one of the only states in the country with CARES Act funds we created an infrastructure fund, if you will, for about $14-15 million of new broadband and that's going in right now as we speak, which is really, really great.
The next piece is also transportation. A lot of times, or it's a combination of transportation and childcare, but taking childcare to the next level. We got this education development grant, $26 million that UNH and the state worked on that's going to take early childcare development to the next level, making sure they have the technology. We're providing that opportunity at a very early age, I think it's going to be a big piece of this.
And then finally, it can be something as simple as cell towers. Cell towers can get you that technological connection if you don't have the fiber in the ground. I've put 50 cell towers up with a partnership with AT&T, there's more going up next year, but that's another big piece.
Let me ask you about energy infrastructure because you've derided your opponent, Senator Dan Feltes's support for small scale solar power as essentially crony capitalism. The state Site Evaluation Committee just approved the state's first utility scale solar array, 30 megawatts for the New England grid in southwestern New Hampshire, from NextEra which owns Seabrook. Do you want to see more of these in the state, or do you have the same concerns about larger solar farms as you do smaller ones?
No, let's be clear, I want the small solar. It's the larger groups, the net metering piece, to the very large array that costs over the next ten years literally a couple hundred million dollars to every ratepayer, whether you're low income, fixed income, every time you turn on a light, you're getting charged. The better way to do it is to go really small with it and focus the solar on places like apartment buildings and mobile home parks and longterm care facilities or fifty-five and up communities. Those that are least able to pay that very high subsidy should be first in line to get the economic benefits. And then we all get the environmental benefits.
You've been working with democratic majorities and they've passed a lot of bills adn you've issued a record number of vetoes. If re-elected, can you anticipate an area of compromise you'll make with Democrats to achieve policy success?
I made a record number of vetoes. I also signed more bills in 2019 than Maggie Hassan ever did. Nobody ever wants to talk about number of bills I did sign. I mean...
Nobody doubts the number of bills you did sign. I was simply asking about compromise areas you'd foresee in the next two years.
Yes, because, with a Democrat legislature in 2019, I signed more bills than my predecessor, showing that obviously we have the ability to compromise, find common ground, move things forward. We stood together when we said we were going to support individuals with pre-existing conditions. We stood together on the pharmaceutical...the ability to have a more flexible market with pharmaceuticals and drive the price on pharmaceutical drugs down. We stood together when we put the insulin caps on. I'm one of the only Republicans in the country supporting the ACA in the Supreme Court. We're going against the Trump Administration and other Republicans on that issue, because at the end of the day, my job is to look out for the 1.3 million people in the state and we put politics aside and we get it done.
I want to ask you about mask mandates because you've been opposed to a statewide mandatory mask mandate. If you knew that a mandatory statewide mask mandate would prevent COVID-19 from taking one more life, would you issue such a mandate?
Well, that's a completely theoretical and false question.
It's actually not. It's not. Because 12,000 infectious disease experts say a federal mask mandate is needed to save lives. That certainly would apply to New Hampshire.
I'm sorry, I'm going to reject your question there, because the idea that...we've shown here in New Hampshire that we have one of the best models in the country, the result...and how do I know that? We've got some of the best COVID rates. We've shown we've created a great balance. When a city or town says they want to do a mask mandate, we say aboslutely. Especially in the southern tier. Because we have to understand what's happening. Sixty percent of our towns have no COVID. Maybe fifty-five percent I think was today's (Tuesday's) number. Zero cases of COVID in over 50 percent of our cities and towns. Now the ones that do have high rates, most of those already have mask mandates. We're supportive of those. I think that's absolutely fine. So the answer isn't to do a mask mandate and cover yourself. The answer is have a model that works and finds a balance in your community.