Primary Source: Poll Shows Sununu Ahead, But Race Expected to Tighten

  • Valley News political columnist and news editor John Gregg in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 20, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Geoff Hansen

Published: 10/17/2018 11:50:28 PM
Modified: 10/17/2018 11:50:37 PM

A new poll released on Wednesday showed Republican Gov. Chris Sununu with a 10 percentage point lead over Democratic challenger Molly Kelly.

The Saint Anselm College Survey Center poll showed Sununu with 49 percent support, to 39 percent for Kelly, thanks in part to a 12-point advantage among independents. But, the poll cautioned, the “race will likely tighten as Kelly picks up uncommitted Democrats and independents down the stretch.”

Kelly, a former state senator from Cheshire County, reported a strong fundraising period on Wednesday, raking in $345,000 since winning the September primary. In total, her campaign has raised $1.05 million, much of it from New Hampshire residents, as she is not taking corporate donations.

By contrast, Sununu reported raising $111,000 since the Sept. 11 primary, and had raised a total of $1.5 million in this election cycle.

Kelly spent much of Saturday campaigning in the Upper Valley, helping Dartmouth Democrats launch a canvassing drive, talking to supporters in Claremont and meeting voters at the Charlestown Fall Festival.

But Sununu has had a good week, notching the endorsement of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104. The union supports the Northern Pass project, as does Sununu, but it’s the first time in more than 35 years that the IBEW Local has endorsed a Republican gubernatorial candidate in New Hampshire.

Sununu, unsurprisingly, also won the endorsement of the Union Leader, which praised him for lowering business taxes.

But not everyone is a fan. Grantham-based attorney Sheridan Brown, who earlier in his career worked as an aide for then-Sen. John Sununu, the governor’s brother, has launched a website called NH Is Not for Sale, which serves as a searchable database of donations to Sununu in the past two election cycles, including his inaugural committee.

Campaign reports have long been public in New Hampshire, but in paper form are hard to search and aggregate. With the click of a few buttons, users of Brown’s website can sort out different sectors or donors, and top donors, to Sununu. They include energy companies like Eversource (at least $25,000) and Centene Management Co. ($25,000), which helps run the New Hampshire Healthy Family Medicaid program. Then there’s also the $10,000 from Intralot, a Keno vendor, and another $10,000 from RAI Services, aka the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

Sununu’s campaign report on Wednesday also indicated he’d gotten another $1,000 from the Great America Committee, bringing to $6,000 the money he’s collected from the political action committee chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.

The 44-year-old Brown, who left the Republican Party and now is an independent, acknowledges that he interviewed with Sununu in the spring of 2017 when the new governor was looking for a commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Services. But Brown, who in 2013 as a lobbyist with the Loon Preservation Committee helped win passage of a law banning toxic lead fishing sinkers and jigs weighing 1 ounce or less, said it was clear he and Sununu had different visions about the environment.

And he also believes Sununu is too close to his corporate donors.

“I don’t think donor loyalty is the sole driver of his ideology and decisions, but I think donor relationships influence many of Chris’ key decisions and definitely determine his level of interest and effort in any particular matter,” Brown said. He’s also concerned about money Sununu has taken from real estate developers.

“A lot of his contributions come from folks who are intent on building these retail centers,” Brown said. “You drive around New Hampshire, and a lot of these towns are starting to look alike.”

Two emails to Sununu’s campaign spokesman seeking comment this week on Brown’s website were not returned.

Briefly Noted

■State Rep. Steve Negron, the Nashua Republican who is challenging U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., held veterans roundtables in Lebanon and Woodsville on Saturday, and had lunch with Dartmouth Republicans.

Kuster will be in the Upper Valley today, giving a health care speech at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to staff there, and also in Plainfield for an endorsement from the New Hampshire chapter of the Sierra Club. The Saint Anselm poll found Kuster with 49 percent support, to 22 percent for Negron, but also said “Negron will cut significantly into this margin as he becomes better known among Republican and independent voters.”

■The Two Rivers Action Coalition is sponsoring a candidates forum tonight in South Strafford focusing on climate change and how Vermont should address the issue. At least 10 legislative candidates from Windsor and Orange County are expected to attend. The forum at Barrett Hall starts at 6 p.m.

John P. Gregg can be reached at

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