Executive Council Votes Down Sununu's Nominee for N.H. Supreme Court Chief Justice

Jul 10, 2019

The Executive Council voted 3-2 this morning to reject Gov. Chris Sununu's nomination of Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to be the next chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

It was a party-line vote. Democrats Andru Volinsky, Deb Pignatelli, and Mike Cryans cast votes against confirmation.

Volinsky said now is not the time to take a chance on a judge. "I'm afraid that the extremism of the day has conspired to defeat this nomination," he said. "In these times, I cannot assume the law of the land will hold."

Sununu quickly issued a statement criticizing the opposition. He said he would be taking a "pause" on judicial nominations, alleging that the process has gotten rife with partisanship.

Sununu, a two-term Republican, is a former executive councilor. A further excerpt from his statement:

"I am absolutely disappointed for Gordon. To have one of the most qualified and widely supported nominees in the state's history treate din this way because of politics is reprehensible enough, but just as concerning is the damage done to our process. So given that, it is clear we need to take a pause on the judicial nominating process and not move forward with any nominees until I have confidence there's appropriate perspective from the council on their responsibilities to the process and to the state."

Democrats had questioned MacDonald's conservative roots -- he's a former staff member of former Sen. Gordon Humphrey -- and his position on abortion rights. MacDonald said he sees Roe v. Wade as settled law. During a public hearing, Volinsky also pointed out that MacDonald did not have any experience on the bench. 

Holly Shulman, a spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, issued a one-sentence statement after the vote: "This is a very good day for New Hampshire women, and a very bad day for Chris Sununu."

(This is a developing story. This post will be updated.)