Governor Chris Sununu Sworn In For Second Term, Delivers Inaugural Address

Jan 3, 2019

Governor Chris Sununu kicked off his second term with an inaugural speech that laid down some ideological markers but stressed bipartisanship, particularly on issues involving child protection mental health and the opioid crisis. 

Scroll down for more of NHPR's coverage of  Gov. Sununu's inauguration, including transcripts of his speech, video, and more.

Sununu got to a central theme early in inaugural remarks that stretched over an hour: that New Hampshire voted for bipartisanship when it chose a Republican governor but sent Democratic majorities to Concord.

“We talk about partisanship, and we talk about working together, bipartisanship. That’ve a very fine line between those two and in New Hampshire we’ve done it right," Sununu said," but let’s not lose focus, in terms of truly getting stuff done.”

Sununu noted that the the legislature has worked in a bipartisan manner before, by expanding the Medicaid program under Obamacare, and in crafting polices that convinced the Trump administration to boost federal aid for substance abuse.

Sununu asked lawmakers to embrace a similar spirit in backing a range of initiatives.

“The study will have no partisan agenda, and frankly, no preconceived notions.” That was Sununu talking up his plan to study the state’s high rate of pediatric cancer.

Chris Sununu poses with his father, John H. Sununu, and Boy Scouts Troop 88, who delivered the Pledge of Allegiance at the New Hampshire State House
Credit Dan Tuohy for NHPR

Kids were also the focus when the Governor pledged to expand work on reforming the state’s child protection services, at the agency known as DCFY, and at the state’s foster care system.

“This is exactly who we were sent to Concord to fight for, is the vulnerable," he said. "It's the forgotten - the kids in tough situations that are of absolutely no fault of their own.”

Sununu’s focus on the vulnerable extended to a promise to get involved when lawmakers revisit the state’s school funding system. He also promised to take action on a long-term priority of many liberals in the legislature.

"I'm very excited about this one. We're going to accomplish something that has been talked about for decades but for whatever reason we quite haven't gotten around to. We will move the state psychiatric unit out of the state prison and treat those patients with the dignity and respect they deserve."

But while proposals like this went over big with Democrats who will soon be running the state budget process, the Governor also sent clear signals he’s still a Republican.

He heaped praise on education commission Frank Edelblut, a conservative who remains a lighting rod in Concord. He also played up his rapport with the Trump administration, name-dropping Betsy DeVos and Ryan Zinke.

He also left no doubt about his position on taxes.

"Now I implore this legislature, please learn from some of the mistakes from the past. The last thing we should do is be raising taxes or pushing a budget that does not live within our means, and it goes without saying, there will be no sales or income tax on my watch."

While most Democrats in the room sat out that round of applause, some found plenty to like in Sununu’s speech.

Executive councilor Andru Volinsky summed it up this way: “In his inaugural address he tried to adopt almost every important Democratic position there was and I’m glad to welcome the governor to the party.”

House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, meanwhile, said Sununu seemed to be trying to have it both ways.

"He in some respects, in some of his comments, was very outreaching, and trying to talk across party lines, and in other areas, I think he was more like the President,” Shurtleff said.

For Sununu, that may be the line he has to walk. Doing it in balance will be the challenge.

Watch the ceremony, speech and NHPR's special broadcast:

Listen to audio of Sununu's remarks:

Part 1 of speech:

Part 2 of speech:

Read the official version of the Governor's remarks:

Read an unedited transcript created from the audio of the Governor's remarks:

6:00 AM:

What to expect in (and after) Governor Sununu's inaugural address

by Josh Rogers and Rick Ganley

As Governor Chris Sununu is inaugurated for his second term, the obvious challenge for the Governor will be how navigate a statehouse newly under democratic control. NHPR’s Josh Rogers joined Morning Edition to discuss what we might hear from the Governor’s speech, and what we might expect afterwards.

Note: Transcript has been edited for clarity

Today will be the Governor’s chance to set the tone for what he hope to accomplish over the next two years. What are we expecting to hear?

Well, I think the big message - and inaugural addresses tend to be about big themes - is going to be something along the lines of "steady as we go." The Governor likes to make the argument that he’s worked to address long-deferred problems –think the mental health system, think child protection – and that he’s helped to put the state it on the right path economically, and put in place policies to help end the opioid crisis. I suspect we will hear about all these things. All are obviously topics also of interest to Democrats, though they may have some different ideas about how to handle them.

We've been stressing the landscape has changed for the governor – no modern GOP governor has had to deal with Democratic majorities - but even when Republicans controlled Concord, Governor Sununu often struggled to pass priority polices. Do you get the sense that the governor’s approach to working with lawmakers is going to change much? 

Well, it probably has to change to some extent. Pushing for a voucher-like school choice law, or Right to Work – polices he pursued without success in his first term, those are utter non-starters now. But Governors facing a legislature controlled by the opposite party often end up playing more defense – trying to head off or block outcomes they don’t want, more than necessarily leading. But we don’t yet know what the governor's approach is going to be. And if you take the governor at his word from his recent appearance on NHPR’s exchange his basic M.O. will not be changing.

“Look at the end of the day I don’t change my approach at all. I mean you just deal with folks, you bring them in you talk to them you create as much of a partnership as you can. And remember most legislation we agree on. My guess is I’ll get a couple of hundred bills onto my desk this time, just like I did last time. Most of which is technical stuff or clean up this, of fix that, or common-sense things that we can all agree on or move forward on. There’s be 10 to 20 pieces of legislation that we are going to really have to hash out."

The Governor says 10 to 20 bills will require hashing out. Is that code for veto?

Not necessarily, but it seems to be a recognition that policies will be heading his way that he doesn’t want to become law, and by summer the Governor will almost absolutely be wielding a veto pen on some bills. On topics like guns, for instance, many Democrats want to reinstate the permit requirement to carry a concealed gun. Repealing that requirement was the first bill Sununu signed. Election law is going to be another fraught topic. Democrats will likely try to undo some of the GOP-backed laws to tighten the process to document a voters domicile.

Marijuana could also cause friction; legalizing pot is now part of the state Democratic platform. The governor says he will veto that if it reaches his desk. Also the death penalty repeal. That passed last year and Sununu did veto. It will likely pass again.

And let’s not forget the state budget. That process will get going in earnest next month. When the Governor addressed New Hampshire House Republicans behind closed doors in November, he told them there are worse things than vetoing a budget. Sununu seemed to be alluding to the possibility that Democrats will revisit the business tax cuts he’s made a priority. During that same speech, Sununu also warned Republicans that if their unity cracks, Democrats will “pound away.”

So some fighting words in private. But do you see any areas of clear common purpose between Governor Sununu and Democrats?

I think making the "hub and spoke" opioid plan work is something everyone in Concord wants. Paid family leave is another possibility. This was, you recall, a point of contention during the governor’s race. Sununu says he has a plan to create paid family leave plan via the private market. The details remain a bit murky. But Democrats certainly want New Hampshire to join the five others states that have paid family leave laws. So there’s a possibility there. And you know this is inauguration day - everything is supposed to be possible.