Planned Parenthood Critic: Don't Shut Down the Government Over This, Or Any, Issue

Flickr user Mount Rainier National Park

Chris Sununu, the scion of a New Hamp­shire Re­pub­lic­an dyn­asty who is run­ning for gov­ernor in 2016, cast the de­cid­ing vote in the state’s Ex­ec­ut­ive Coun­cil to de­fund Planned Par­ent­hood be­fore he launched his cam­paign. But as mo­mentum to de­fund Planned Par­ent­hood at any cost at the fed­er­al level gains mo­mentum among con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans, Sununu said he doesn’t think Re­pub­lic­ans should go so far as to shut down the gov­ern­ment over the is­sue.

“Yes, sim­il­ar to [Sen­at­or] Kelly Ayotte, if they want to con­sider de­fund­ing Planned Par­ent­hood, that’s their choice and I would sup­port that. I do not be­lieve the gov­ern­ment should ever be shut down for something like that, or for any reas­on what­so­ever,” Sununu said.

Sununu, who an­nounced his gubernat­ori­al cam­paign Monday, calls him­self a pro-choice Re­pub­lic­an. But he’s fa­cing cri­ti­cism from Demo­crats after vot­ing to strip Planned Par­ent­hood of North­ern New Eng­land of $639,000 in pub­lic funds, in light of con­tro­ver­sial un­der­cov­er videos show­ing the or­gan­iz­a­tion dis­cuss­ing the sale of fetal tis­sue. In New Hamp­shire, the Ex­ec­ut­ive Coun­cil has veto power over state con­tracts.

But Sununu doesn’t think his vote will hurt him among wo­men voters, though Planned Par­ent­hood touted polling from a Demo­crat­ic firm show­ing that ef­forts to de­fund the or­gan­iz­a­tion are un­pop­u­lar in New Hamp­shire.

“I really be­lieve that is­sue is go­ing to ab­so­lutely back­fire on the Demo­crats and the reas­on is be­cause their sound bites are lies,” Sununu said, point­ing to Demo­crat­ic claims that wo­men will lose ac­cess to health care ser­vices be­cause of his role as the swing vote in the 3-2 de­cision. “Not a single wo­man is go­ing to lose the op­tion for health care be­cause of that vote. Not a single one.”

While the Planned Par­ent­hood vote could be a stick­ing point in the gubernat­ori­al race, Sununu—whose broth­er John was a U.S. sen­at­or and whose fath­er (also John) served as gov­ernor—is a strong con­tender to be­come New Hamp­shire’s first Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernor in more than a dec­ade, par­tic­u­larly if in­cum­bent Demo­crat­ic Gov. Mag­gie Has­san doesn’t run for reelec­tion. Sununu has trailed her in re­cent polls, but Has­san is con­sid­er­ing run­ning for Sen­ate in 2016.

Demo­crats have won nine of the past 10 gubernat­ori­al elec­tions in New Hamp­shire. Asked what his party needs to do dif­fer­ently to buck that trend in 2016, Sununu said he be­lieves it all comes down to can­did­ate qual­ity.

“In New Hamp­shire, it’s really about the can­did­ate. The is­sues mat­ter of course … but we need to con­nect with voters on a very per­son­al level,” Sununu said, echo­ing ad­vice that pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates of­ten get in the state. “That’s why I got in­to the race so early. Name [iden­ti­fic­a­tion] doesn’t mat­ter. You have to get out there and talk to people one-on-one, in­tro­duce your­self per­son­ally.”

Des­pite his fam­ous last name, Sununu said he’s tak­ing noth­ing for gran­ted. “I’m No. 7 of eight kids,” Sununu said. “There were 10 of us in that house­hold and we all chose fairly dif­fer­ent paths. People are al­ways shocked at how little we talk polit­ics with­in the fam­ily. … Frankly, the de­bates in our house­hold grow­ing up were more about the Red Sox versus the Yan­kees—my fath­er was a Yan­kees fan—as op­posed to polit­ic­al de­bates. We have enough of that out­side the house.”

Sununu, who is seen as more so­cially mod­er­ate than his fath­er or broth­er, said he’s not com­mit­ted to mak­ing an en­dorse­ment in the GOP pres­id­en­tial race be­fore the New Hamp­shire primary. And he is not wor­ried about the party nom­in­at­ing a nom­in­ee who would hurt him on a tick­et next Novem­ber. 

Re­gard­ing Don­ald Trump, Sununu offered only po­lite cri­ti­cism. “My biggest con­cern about Mr. Trump, and it’s something my moth­er taught me through my en­tire life: She said, ‘Be a gen­tle­man, and al­ways have man­ners,’” Sununu said. “You know, that’s prob­ably where I dif­fer the most from Mr. Trump. If you don’t have that then there’s no way you can truly con­nect with people. There’s no way you can be in a po­s­i­tion to be a listen­er, and to un­der­stand what some of the op­pos­ing is­sues are.”

“But,” Sununu con­tin­ued, “he says what he means and in a state like New Hamp­shire that car­ries a lot of weight.”

(Image via Flickr user Mount Rainier National Park)

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