As the polls closed in New Hampshire last Tuesday night, it was shortly evident that Republican Chris Sununu had won the gubernatorial race against Democrat state Sen. Dan Feltes. Embarking on a third term, Gov. Sununu disclosed what Granite Staters can expect in the upcoming two years from coronavirus policies to future civil rights legislation.
During the gubernational debate with WMUR, Sununu faced many questions on changing policies if the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sees increased intensity. Sununu acknowledged that with schools reopening and the weather turning colder, COVID-19 cases are likely to spike. To combat these spikes, the governor advised the public to take precautions in the upcoming holiday season including wearing masks around non-immediate family, maintaining distances, keeping up vigilances and acting responsibly. If these spikes rise significantly there are more restrictions that Sununu could put in place “down the road,” but he claimed, “we [New Hampshire] are far, far away from where we were [in March].” It does not seem likely that Sununu will make any immediate changes to the COVID-19 policies already in place.
When asked about implementing a statewide mask mandate, Sununu replied, “there is nothing political about wearing a mask,” and expressed support of communities implementing mandates. However, Sununu does not see instituting a statewide mask mandate as a plausible solution for the current condition of New Hampshire. Nevertheless, with the changing nature of the coronavirus spikes, a future statewide mask mandate could be possible. However, officials are advocating that other factors like social distancing and washing hands, could prove to be effective in the long-term.
Another topic Sununu spoke on in WMUR’s debate was the changing of Indigenous peoples as state school mascots. The Governor agreed that it can be offensive for schools to use Indigenous people as mascots and that many schools have been looking to change that. He left the choice up to the school districts but called the present changes progress.
The Governor has not acknowledged that systematic racism exists, but he has prepared plans to move forward in helping oppressed groups gain more civil rights. Sununu stated, “When the first Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest was going to happen in Manchester, I picked up the phone and said we support you and we will work with police. The result is not just talk; it is allowing the Law Enforcement Accountability Commission to come together.”
The Law Enforcement Accountability Commission was enacted in June 2020 under the Sununu administration with the purpose to “engage all interested and relevant public, private, and community stakeholders and develop recommendations for reforms that the Commission deems necessary to enhance transparency, accountability, and community relations in law enforcement,” according to their page on the NH official website.
On the commission is the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire (ACLU), BLM, state police, local law enforcement, police, and local prosecutors. The committee has come up with dozens of ways to make change happen that they listed in an official document addressed to Gov. Sununu. In reference to these recommendations from the committee, the governor pledged that “we’re going to get them done and then we’re going to take the next step and the next step.” In his past terms, the governor has supported inclusivity, including creating the Commission on Diversity Inclusion.
On the topic of Michael Addison, a 2006 convicted felon for murder of Manchester police officer, Michael Briggs, Gov. Sununu was asked how he plans to proceed with the death penalty when the state of New Hampshire does not have a death chamber. Addison is New Hampshire’s only death row inmate since the death penalty has now been abolished in the state. Sununu stated that he will not commute Addison’s sentence, however he is not certain how to proceed with the logistics of his sentence. Creating a death chamber will likely increase taxes or require significant funding from another source. Gov. Sununu has not yet made a decision on how to proceed with the case.
The recently reelected Governor has also spoken on topics like gun control, climate change, and abortion.
The Governor is unlikely to change or implement further gun policies as he has stated that New Hampshire has “responsible firearm legislation.” He defended the vetoing of other common-sense gun legislation because he believes the bills “started out as potentially common-sense bills that became very abusive very quickly and basically became gun confiscation bills.” The governor has not yet passed any legislation on gun-free school zones but instead has voiced support for implementing mental health programs and resources for teachers, students and other education workers.
Gov. Sununu recently acknowledged that humans do have an effect on climate change and has promoted offshore wind and solar energy. Additionally, Gov. Sununu has claimed he is “pro-choice” and voted in favor of funding Planned Parenthood in 2016, but remains opposed to funding abortion through taxes, according to WMUR.
No one is quite sure what the next two years will bring in the midst of a constantly changing society and it remains to be seen what the governor will accomplish in his third term, but New Hampshire residents can remain optimistic for future civil rights legislation and no foreseeable tax increases. Gov. Sununu himself is optimistic for his next term and took to Twitter to express his gratitude and reveal that serving as governor “is the honor of a lifetime.”
Photo Courtesy of WMUR