Primary Source: Hanover Democrat Seeking Executive Council Seat in 4th Bid

  • 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: 9/21/2017 12:06:41 AM
Modified: 9/21/2017 12:06:49 AM

Hanover Democrat Mike Cryans on Wednesday said he will run next year for the District 1 Executive Council seat, setting up a potential fourth contest against Republican incumbent Joe Kenney.

“I spent some time this summer going around to a lot of events throughout the district, and I was energized by people saying ‘I hope you are going to run again,’ ” Cryans, a former longtime Grafton County commissioner, said. “I’ve been thinking about it an awful lot the last month or two and decided, ‘hey, I’m going to go for it.’ ”

In making the bid, the 66-year-old Cryans, if he wins the Democratic primary, could face Kenney, a Wakefield Republican and former state senator, for a fourth time. The district, which encompasses more than half of the state and stretches from Claremont to the Canadian border, was long held by Bath Republican Ray Burton.

Cryans and Kenney first competed in a special election in March 2014 after Burton died, then in November 2014, then again in November 2016, where Kenney won with 72,892 votes to 65,594 for Cryans.

Cryans acknowledged that it historically has been a Republican district. The last Democrat to hold the seat was Northumberland resident William Styles, who won one term in the mid-1960s.

The 57-year-old Kenney, who ran for governor in 2008, on Wednesday evening said he wouldn’t decide, for certain, whether he will run again for Executive Council until May of election year, his normal time frame. Told of Cryans’ intentions, he said, “It’s so early in the game, so I don’t know how to respond to it, other than ‘welcome to the race once again.’ ”

Republicans hold a 3-2 advantage on the Executive Council, which must approve gubernatorial nominations and all contracts worth over $25,000.

Cryans said he’d like to flip that to a Democratic advantage, especially with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in the corner office.

“I would not have voted for the current commissioner of education, that’s an example,” Cryans said of Frank Edelblut, Sununu’s pick for the education job.

 Cryans also said his concerns include making sure that the transmission wires for the Northern Pass project are all buried, continuing to battle the opioid crisis, and helping develop more business incubators in northern New Hampshire to keep younger residents from leaving.

Another function of the Executive Council is to oversee and help manage development of the state’s 10-year highway plan through the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation. As part of its 19 regional GACIT hearings, Kenney will be in Lebanon tonight for a 7 p.m. public hearing at City Hall.

On the Single-Payer Bandwagon

Democrats in Congress have a more immediate task in trying to beat back another Republican attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act, this time through the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill in the Senate.

But the alliances last week when U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., filed his  single-payer “Medicare for All” bill were revealing.

Two of his Senate backers were U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. Normally a centrist, she embraced the legislation, saying, “… I believe that healthcare should be a fundamental right in this country… I know that in a Republican-controlled Congress this legislation will not pass in the near term, but I believe this bill puts pressure on Congress to think big when it comes to providing the healthcare that all Americans need and deserve.”

But U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., opted not to back the plan. Her press secretary, Ricki Eshman, said on Wednesday, “That approach is not what Senator Hassan is focused on. What the Senator is focused on is finding ways to work across the aisle to improve and build on the Affordable Care Act so that we can bring down health care costs — particularly the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs — that are squeezing families in New Hampshire and across the country.”

In the House, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is a “strong supporter” of the Sanders bill, according to Welch spokewoman Kate Hamilton, and has regularly voted for another Medicare for All bill in the U.S. House. 

Like Hassan, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster also stressed a bipartisan approach, saying through spokesman Nick Brown that she “supports the goal of universal health coverage and has proposed giving Americans over the age of 55 the option to buy-in to Medicare coverage.” 

And U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., has filed her own bill, separate from Sanders, that “would allow Americans to buy Medicare coverage by creating a public option to compete alongside private insurers.”

Briefly Noted

-The Vermont Senate Government Operations Committee is holding a public hearing today at 1:30 p.m. in the Hartford Municipal Building to discuss law enforcement and what Vermonters expect from public safety services.

-Fairlee has a new town administrator. Norwich resident Laura Zubryd started in the job last week, replacing Brian Hanson, who is moving to South Carolina.

John Gregg can be reached at

Valley News

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