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Grafton County Official Plans Run for Burton Seat

Hanover — Grafton County Commissioner Mike Cryans said Tuesday he plans to run for the Executive Council seat left vacant by the death of Bath Republican Ray Burton, a longtime political ally.

Cryans, a 62-year-old Hanover Democrat, has served as Grafton County commissioner for 17 years, including almost a decade as county chairman. And as a Littleton, N.H., native, he also has name recognition in the northern part of the county.

“I’m going to try to do the things that have been done in the past by Ray Burton, to offer people constituent service, to encourage people from this part of the state to look for appointments, and to encourage people to participate,” said Cryans, a former banker and Littleton High School teacher who now serves as executive director of Headrest, the Lebanon-based nonprofit that runs a 24-hour-hotline and also offers addiction recovery services.

The Executive Council must approve all gubernatorial appointments and state contracts over $10,000. The District 1 seat stretches across the state from Claremont to Milton, on the Maine border, then north to Pittsburg on the Canadian border.

Each district represents about 264,000 people, and Grafton County, with a population of 89,000, is about 33 percent of the district.

Though they were of different parties, Cryans became a friend and political ally of Burton’s, who held the Executive Council post for a record 35 years before dying of cancer last week.

“Ray’s shoes will be impossible to fill, and I’m not trying to be another Ray Burton,” Cryans said. “I’ll try to do the best I can.”

Cryans mentioned his candidacy to Gov. Maggie Hassan and other Democrats Tuesday during her visit to Lebanon for a chamber of commerce speech. Hassan this week called a special election to fill Burton’s seat, with the filing deadline ending on Dec. 2. A primary would be held on Jan. 21 and a general election on March 11. If no primary is required, the general election would be moved up to Jan. 21.

State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, also a friend of Cryans, opted not to run for the seat, which helped Cryans make up his mind.

“We’re both kind of North Country guys,” he said.

Grafton County Sheriff Doug Dutile, who is active in GOP politics, said he has yet to hear of a Republican candidate.

Rumney Republican Jerry Thibodeau, who unsuccessfully challenged Burton in a GOP primary last year, said he is “looking at it,” but hasn’t decided whether to run.

If elected, Cryans said, he plans to hold onto his commissioner’s seat in Grafton County as well.

The county delegation’s Executive Committee plans to solicit the names of county residents who might be interested in filling Burton’s seat on the county commission, then would have the full county delegation vote on the choice by early January.

As for the sprawling Executive Council post, Cryans acknowledged that every candidate will have to “struggle to get the name recognition necessary.”

“It’s an off-year election in the middle of winter. It’s going to take a lot of work,” Cryans said. “People are going to have to be committed to come out and vote for a candidate.”

John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com or 603-727-3217.

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