It's Town Meeting season across New Hampshire, and Gov. Chris Sununu is weighing in on at least one local race. Sununu has endorsed a top staffer in his office in a bid for re-election to Salem's town budget committee.
That staffer, D.J. Bettencourt, is Sununu's policy director. He also once served as House Majority Leader. Bettencourt stressed both of those jobs during a recent interview on Salem local access TV, and said Salem voters should see his time in Concord as a plus:
"I've dealt with state budgets in a number of different areas, at the state level, as a state rep for eight years, or in my work as Governor Sununu's policy director, that I’m in now, and those state budgets involve billions of dollars.”
Ben Vihstadt, a spokesman for Sununu, said he believes Bettencourt is the lone town-level candidate to win Sununu's endorsement this year. He added that Sununu encourages staff to engage in local public service, and says the governor's office follows the executive branch code of ethics when it comes to conflicts of interest.
One Salem-related item in Sununu’s proposed budget, presented last month to the Legislature, is a $100,000 grant to support existing programs at the Salem Boys and Girls Club.
Asked about the origin of that grant, Vihstadt originally offered that it was prompted by “Senator Chuck Morse and other local stakeholders.” In a subsequent message, Vihstadt said Morse was not involved, but that the request for funding to the Salem organization "came exclusively from local stateholders." He added that Bettencourt wasn't involved in the decision.