Primary Source: Young Sunapee lawmaker attracts attention with tweets, missed votes

  • John P. Gregg. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/26/2019 10:33:06 PM
Modified: 6/28/2019 2:32:43 PM

Voters in Croydon and Sunapee showed their Republican leanings last fall when Gates Lucas, R-Sunapee, narrowly defeated five-term state Rep. Suzanne Gottling, D-Sunapee, in the Sullivan 2 New Hampshire House district.

But Lucas, who graduated from Dartmouth College in 2016, has had a spotty attendance record in Concord and has also raised eyebrows for his trolling of Democrats on social media.

The son of Jay Lucas, a private equity investor and former gubernatorial candidate who grew up in the Newport area and has founded a “Sunshine Initiative” there, Gates Lucas works for Liberty Mutual Insurance in Boston and also helped out on Gov. Chris Sununu’s gubernatorial campaigns.

In late February, the first-term lawmaker was replaced by another Republican on the House committee he sat on, the House Committee on Resources, Recreation and Development. And voting records also indicate Lucas has missed 49 roll call votes this year on the House floor. By comparison, state Rep. Garrett Muscatel, a Hanover Democrat and a Dartmouth undergraduate, took classes in the spring term but missed only 17 votes.

Lucas, 26, said via email on Wednesday that he knows “firsthand the challenges of balancing between his two jobs,” with Liberty Mutual and in the Statehouse.

“As a young state rep, I do not have the luxury of taking unlimited amounts of time off of work. I do my best and my constituents appreciate my votes in standing up for Sunapee, Croydon, and Governor Sununu — as well as working hard to promote suicide prevention,” Lucas said.

Lucas also asserted that he “proactively reached out” to Republican House leaders to be taken off the committee because it met on Tuesdays, the one day of the week he’s required to be in Boston.

And Aaron Goulette, a spokesman for House Republican leaders, said Lucas held conversations at the time with House Republican Leader Dick Hinch about serving on a different committee. “Because Republicans only have so many seats on committees, and we didn’t have any immediate room for him to switch, the resolution was made that he could step aside from his committee for a period of time until we found an opening on a committee of interest for him,” Goulette said.

But state Rep. Rosemarie Rung, a Merrimack Democrat and the clerk of the committee, said on Twitter that Lucas had been “stripped of his committee assignment by Republican leadership because of chronic absenteeism.”

The committee oversees a number of important issues for a lake community like Sunapee. A bill originally pushed there by Gottling, for example, to establish a commission to examine the effects of wake boats on lakes in the state, was signed into law last week by Sununu. (Gottling, a retired principal, remains active in town, serving on the Sunapee Selectboard).

In Lucas’ defense, he does add some youthful diversity in Concord, where the typical lawmaker is well over 60 and earns only $100 annually, plus some travel stipends. He also said in his email that he was “proud to be one of only nine Republicans to vote for a bill to study young people in the Legislature so that we can find solutions to incentivizing more youthful representation.”

His tweets often praise Sununu, and one of the votes Lucas did make was potentially a big one for the GOP governor. Although Lucas had voted in March to repeal the death penalty in New Hampshire, he flip-flopped last month and voted to sustain Sununu’s veto, which was narrowly overridden.

He also drew attention to himself earlier this month with a flippant tweet about Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand, who also graduated from Dartmouth, albeit in 1988.

Lucas went to a Gillibrand campaign event in New London and posted a photo of himself with the New York Democrat, who is trying to gain headway in the crowded field of candidates.

“Figured this was my first and only time to meet
@SenGillibrand in New London considering she won’t be in the race much longer,” Lucas tweeted.

That drew a pointed response from Kathy Sullivan, a member of the Democratic National Committee from New Hampshire.

“Interesting, you have time to act like a 12-year-old in New London, but not enough time to represent your constituents in Concord. Priorities of the privileged class,” Sullivan wrote.

Local pressure

Executive Councilor Mike Cryans, D-Hanover, chaired the hearing on Wednesday for Attorney General Gordon MacDonald’s nomination to be the next chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. He asked MacDonald about such issues as voting rights for students, his lack of judicial experience, and abortion rights.

It’s that latter subject that is drawing focus on Cryans, a potential 3-2 swing vote, in the Upper Valley. At a meeting last week with fellow Democrats, Deborah Bacon Nelson, the chair of Hanover Democrats, noted that Cryans won his seat with the endorsement of Planned Parenthood and pressed him to guarantee that he “will vote the right way” — i.e. against MacDonald if he didn’t back abortion rights — in the confirmation vote.

To his credit, Cryans told Nelson he would wait for the hearing before making any decision. And on Wednesday night, Cryans said he wanted to think about the matter but expected to announce how he will vote on Friday. Cryans, who grew up in Littleton, N.H., was the first Democrat in 54 years to win the sprawling 1st District Executive Council seat.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@

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