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With Anti-Sununu Protests, GOP Defection, Recount Loss, and Backlash to Defunding Planned Parenthood

It’s been a disastrous week for Chris Sununu. On Monday, a recount confirmed the NH GOP’s historic loss in the Bedford special election, which was widely seen as a repudiation of Sununu’s anti-choice budget. On Tuesday, things got even worse for the Governor. A Republican rally against the Biden administration at the State House devolved into a protest against Chris Sununu’s handling of the pandemic — with Republicans shouting “Where’s Sununu?” and “He’s a RINO.” The event was such a disaster, it prompted now-former Republican State Representative and physician Bill Marsh to leave the party and become a Democrat. The next day, Chris Sununu’s Republican majority on the Executive Council voted to defund Planned Parenthood and other health organizations, receiving statewide backlash for threatening access to health care for thousands of Granite Staters. After the meeting, Sununu was harshly criticized for his past vote to defund Planned Parenthood and for campaigning hard last year to elect an anti-reproductive rights majority to the council. And as if things couldn’t get worse, on Thursday Donald Trump released a statement praising US Senate candidate Don Bolduc — raising the prospect that Sununu would face a difficult primary if he decides to take Mitch McConnell’s advice to launch a US Senate campaign. The chaos comes as hospitalizations from COVID-19 continue to rise in New Hampshire and the NH Veterans Home was forced to go into another COVID lockdown — making clear that Chris Sununu has failed to provide an effective strategy against COVID-19 and is now facing criticism not just from independents and Democrats — but his own base. READ MEDIA COVERAGE OF SUNUNU’S TERRIBLE WEEK:

Concord Monitor: GOP Press Conference Turns Into Protest Against State COVID Response As more legislators took the podium to criticize the vaccine mandate, the crowd’s anger turned away from the Biden administration and towards the state government. As Smith spoke, the crowd erupted in chants for Sununu, who was recently discharged from the hospital for a bleeding ulcer, to come out and speak. “Where is Sununu,” they shouted. NH Bulletin: Crowd Turns Against Republican Lawmakers During Rally Opposing Vaccine Mandates Republican House members and a large crowd outside the State House Tuesday agreed in their opposition to the Biden administration’s new vaccine mandates. But the crowd made clear they think lawmakers and Gov. Chris Sununu are doing far too little to stop the mandates.

NHPR: Vaccine Protesters Jeer Biden, House Republicans At N.H. State House

“But the protesters didn’t limit their criticism to the president: They also hurled insults at Gov. Chris Sununu and State House Republican leaders, many of whom stood nearby through the jeering and appeared surprised by the disdain sent their way. [...] But the protesters’ chants of “Do Your Job” and “Where’s Sununu?” indicated the gulf between state Republican leaders -- the people charged with leading the state through the pandemic -- and many of the voters they might normally expect to win over.” NH Journal: NHGOP Presser Overtaken By Vax Mandate Opponents in Wild Statehouse Rally

“Where is Sununu?” was the most frequently heard cry of the morning, along with shouts of “coward” and “loser.” Many in the crowd wanted to know why Gov. Chris Sununu wasn’t being more aggressive in opposing the mandate, the way Republicans like Govs. Greg Abbott (Texas) and Ron DeSantis (Fla.). “He’s a RINO,” one protester groaned when Sununu’s name was mentioned. WMUR: NH Primary Source: Democrats Try to Tie Sununu to Executive Council's Defunding of Family Planning Programs

Calling the council "Chris Sununu's Executive Council," the party charged Sununu “has a long record of supporting policies that threaten women’s access to reproductive health care in New Hampshire.” The party noted that Sununu, as an executive councilor, voted to defund Planned Parenthood in 2015, but it did not mention that in 2016, he was the swing vote in favor of restoring funding to the organization after videos purportedly showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue were discredited. The Hill: Trump praises NH Senate candidate as Sununu weighs own bid

Trump's praise of Bolduc that has raised eyebrows in Washington and New Hampshire. While Bolduc has launched his bid for Senate, Republican leaders have pushed Sununu to consider challenging Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan (N.H.) in next year's midterms. NH Bulletin: Republican Councilors Vote Down Contracts For Three Reproductive Health Centers

While Sununu issued a statement condemning the council’s vote, the Democrats are already tying both the ban and the defunding to him ahead of his anticipated run for the U.S. Senate or a fourth term as governor. [...] That strategy makes sense for pro-choice Democrats, said Dante Scala, a professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire. “Abortion has the potential to be a thorn in (Sununu’s) side if he runs for office,” Scala said. “I think today that thorn just went a little deeper.” AP: NH Council Votes Down Family Planning Services Funds Despite Sununu's Objection

However, some Democrats blamed Wednesday's vote on Sununu for supporting anti-abortion candidates for the council. They also recalled when Sununu was on the council in 2015 and cast a deciding vote to not provide funding for Planned Parenthood over concerns that it was selling fetal tissue. The allegations were determined to be unfounded. In 2016, Sununu joined the majority on the council to vote in favor of providing funding for Planned Parenthood. Union Leader: Executive Council Rejects New Contracts with Abortion Providers

The state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation put out a statement condemning both the Republicans on the council and Sununu, who campaigned for all of them to win in 2020 and signed an abortion ban as part of the two-year state budget. [...] After the meeting, Warmington said she thought Sununu should have spent more political capital to convince at least two GOP councilors to support the contracts.

NHPR: Republican-Controlled Executive Council Rejects Awarding Contracts To Reproductive Health Clinics

In a statement, Gov. Chris Sununu called the vote “incredibly disappointing and not something I agree with.” [...] Earlier this year, the budget signed into law by Sununu contained a provision mandating a financial audit of reproductive health facilities to ensure no public funds are paying for abortion-related services. InDepthNH: Republican Rep Changes Party Affiliation After Anti-Vaccine Mandate Rally at State House

New Hampshire House Republicans held an anti-vaccination press conference outside the State House, Tuesday in response to the Biden Administrations efforts to increase vaccination rates nationwide. Speakers included Republican House Speaker Sherman Packard, Deputy Speaker Steven Smith, and Speaker Pro Tempore Kim Rice. At times the event was out of control, however, with members of the crowd chanting “Do your job!” and “Where’s Chris Sununu?” over Speaker Packard. Washington Post: New Hampshire Lawmaker Switches Parties, Joining Democrats Because of GOP Views on Vaccines and Masks

Rep. William Marsh, a former Republican, said party extremists are edging out moderates like him, and that he had planned to quietly retire but felt his hand was forced by what he called Republicans’ refusal to take reasonable health precautions. [...] Marsh, an ophthalmologist who has served as his town’s health officer for 20 years, said his tipping point was when New Hampshire House Republicans organized a rally Tuesday opposing President Biden’s new vaccine mandates for federal and private sector workers. NBC Boston: Lawmaker Switches From Republican to Democrat Due to NH GOP's Anti-Vaccine Stance

In an interview with NBC10 Boston, Marsh said the last straw was a rally held by New Hampshire House Republicans on Tuesday opposing President Joe Biden's proposed COVID-19 vaccine requirement for large companies. "They're calling for a special session to basically do the same thing (Florida Gov. Ron) DeSantis is doing in Florida," he said. The Hill: New Hampshire State Representative Leaves GOP Over Opposition to Vaccine Mandate

A New Hampshire state representative said Tuesday he had formally left the Republican Party in protest of what he said was an emerging strain of anti-vaccination rhetoric coming from state House leaders. [...] At the rally, interrupted by anti-vaccine protesters who criticized Republicans for not taking more drastic action against the Biden administration, state House Speaker Sherman Packard (R) on Tuesday called Biden’s vaccine mandates “madness.” Packard assumed his current position in January, after his predecessor died of the coronavirus. WMUR: NH State Representative Switches to Democratic Party Following House Rally

Following Tuesday’s rally where a large crowd joined Republicans at the State House to protest the federal vaccine mandate, a House GOP lawmaker announced he would be switching parties. State Rep. William Marsh, formerly a Republican from Wolfeboro, said he changed his party registration to Democrat. Marsh is a doctor and said the stand House Republican leadership is making against vaccine mandates, runs against his training and constitutional law. Burgess Everett: @burgessev: Bolduc running for Senate in GOP primary to face Hassan. So Trump praising him like this is a splash of ice water for Sununu. Senate GOP is trying to woo Sununu into the race, which would make it more competitive. But the primary could be interesting if Trump backs Bolduc. [9/16/21, 2:04 PM] James Pindell: @JamesPindell: Kind of a big moment here for @GenDonBolduc, who is running for US Senate in NH (potentially in a GOP primary against Chris Sununu). #nhpolitics [9/16/21, 2:00 PM] Julia Manchester: @JuliaManch: This is interesting-- Trump is putting out a statement praising Don Bolduc, a Senate GOP candidate in New Hampshire. However, many GOP leaders in DC have been pushing for Republican Gov. Sununu to run for Senate. [9/16/21, 3:16 PM]