Hanover Democrat looks to run against Republican Kenney for Executive Council seat a 6th time

  • Michael Cryans

  • Joe Kenney Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/21/2021 5:44:56 PM
Modified: 10/22/2021 9:42:15 PM

HANOVER — Citing his concern about Republican votes against pandemic-related funding and reproductive rights, former Executive Councilor Mike Cryans said on Thursday he plans to seek the sprawling District 1 seat again, setting up a potential sixth race for him against GOP incumbent Joe Kenney.

Cryans, a 70-year-old Hanover Democrat who served one term on the Executive Council before losing to Kenney in 2020, said he has notified some supporters of his plans in a fundraising appeal.

Cryans said he is concerned by votes that Kenney and other Republicans on the council took in recent weeks to reject $27 million in federal money for vaccine outreach and against contracts for reproductive health clinics that provide abortion services.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” Cryans said. “Some of the actions seem like they have just cascaded this past month.”

All four Republican councilors voted against the measures. Concord Democrat Cinde Warmington, whose district includes Unity and Charlestown, was the only councilor to support both.

The five-member Executive Council, which dates to the colonial era, must approve all state contracts over $10,000 and also votes on gubernatorial appointments of judges, commissioners and other public officials.

The 61-year-old Kenney, who lives in Wakefield, N.H., near the Maine border, said via text message that he voted down the vaccine outreach funding because he was opposed to “taking federal money and then being mandated” to enforce and implement federal orders related to quarantine and isolation.

Attorney General John Formella told councilors ahead of the vote that the contracts would not require New Hampshire to apply all federal guidelines and COVID-19 mandates, and Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said the arguments to the contrary were “fantasy.”

Asked about Sununu’s comments, Kenney on Thursday said, “I respectfully disagree.”

Sununu also said that Kenney’s claim that he voted down the vaccine outreach contracts because he opposed private employers’ vaccine mandates — which the contracts did not mention — was overriding decisions of independent businesses.

“That is completely un-American,” Sununu told Kenney during the meeting last week, according to New Hampshire Bulletin. “That’s not even socialism. That is pure communism.”

In his email to supporters, Cryans said, “Like many of you I was dismayed by the vote recently to deny funding for Planned Parenthood and other essential healthcare services, such as physicals, cancer exams, STI testings and birth control. It should be noted these services are offered to approximately 12,000 women, most of whom are low-income. And for many, this is their primary healthcare.”

He also said he would have voted against a new term for Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, a supporter of school vouchers who also came under fire from Sununu for speaking to a fringe right-wing group.

“I am not in favor of weakening our public schools by pulling away taxpayer money,” Cryans said of the voucher program.

Kenney, a former state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, said it was too soon to comment on his political plans, noting that the shape of the North Country district — which stretches from the Canadian border to Claremont — could change with redistricting.

“I won’t (be) thinking about campaigns until next year. Too much work to do and don’t even know what district I will be in,” Kenney said via text.

Cryans and Kenney have run against each other five times since longtime Executive Councilor Ray Burton, a Bath Republican, died in 2013.

Kenney ousted Cryans in 2020, a presidential election year with heavy turnout, with 51.7% of the vote, but Cryans on Thursday noted that he defeated Kenney, then the incumbent, in the 2018 off-year elections.

Cryans, who also served 19 years as a Grafton County commissioner, allowed that it was quite possible other Democrats might seek the seat as well and said fundraising will be a major requirement in the race for District 1, which covers more than half the state by area.

Deb Nelson, chair of Hanover/Lyme Democrats, said she has heard talk of other possible candidates and said a competitive candidate might need to raise money in the six figures.

“I do know it’s a seat the Democrats really need to get back,” Nelson said. “We’re prepared to do everything that we can.”

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

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