After Calling on Guinta to Resign, Sununu Now Says Campaign Finance Violation Not an Issue

Sep 15, 2016

Chris Sununu
Credit Michael Brindley

Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Sununu was among the high-profile Republicans who called on 1st District Congressman Frank Guinta to step down last year in the wake of a $355,000 campaign finance violation. 

Now, Sununu says he no longer holds that position, even though the facts of the case remain the same.

"The issue is at rest. We’re past that now," Sununu told NHPR's Morning Edition Thursday. "He’s won his primary, Frank and I go back a long way. We’re very friendly. And I think he’s going to do a great job running this race in CD1, making a stark contrast between him and Carol Shea-Porter."

Last May, the Federal Election Commission found Guinta broke campaign finance law when he accepted a $355,000 campaign donation in 2010 from his parents. Guinta paid a $15,000 fine and was ordered to repay the money. 

Sununu joined high-profile Republicans, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, in calling for Guinta to resign. Ayotte said Tuesday she still holds that position, but Sununu now chalks up Guinta's discretion to complex campaign finance regulations.

"Have you ever read and understood the campaign finance laws? They’re immensely complex," Sununu said. "And to be honest, I think Frank got completely tied up with not just where his money was coming from, but the laws and the rules. It is immensely complex. So it’s really a matter of he’s taken care of it, obviously the voters agree that it is not a significant issue. I support him 100 percent"

Guinta narrowly won his primary Tuesday, defeating Republican challenger Rich Ashooh by just 649 votes. He now faces Democrat Shea-Porter for the fourth time.

You can read Sununu's full interview below: 

It’s fair to say there were some pretty harsh accusations in this race. For example, you said Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas had a failed record in Manchester; he accused you of having a liberal record.

Gatsas has now endorsed you, so were those kinds of attacks just the politics of a competitive primary?

Look, it was a competitive primary. I never mind talking about people’s records. I think it’s always fair game to talk about where people stand, their philosophies, their true beliefs, and that’s all fair game for a primary. It does get a little testy toward the end but all the candidates ran very good races. We’ve all united, we’ve all come together the day after the election. There’s really no division in our party. We’re moving together with one voice, not just behind me, but Senator Ayotte, Jim Lawrence, Frank Guinta. We’re really moving together and I think that’s important. It gives confidence not only to the Republican party, but to independents and even those conservative Democrats who are looking for those fiscal conservatives to really get things done instead of just the same old thing time and time again. We do need change, there’s no doubt about that, some fresh leadership. We need some change in this state and we’re moving forward.

You beat out state Representative Frank Edeblut by a very slim margin, just a few hundred votes. Edelblut appealed to many of the libertarian-leaning voters, so how do you now bring all those different types of Republican voters to your side?

I take a lot of pride in my record of not burning bridges. I really don’t. So whether you’re a staunch hardcore right conservative, whether you’re more moderate on social issues like I am, even some of the conservative Democrats out there, I have an appeal to everybody, frankly. Frank was a great candidate. He got in early, he ran a great ground game. He really stuck true to his message, he didn’t get bogged down in the weeds in a lot of the negativity, and that appealed to a lot of folks, and rightly so. So we knew going into Tuesday, our guess was this was really going to be a four-way race. I know a lot of people didn’t say that, but our numbers said this was going to be a four-way race. Everyone had an appeal to a certain segment. There were four good candidates out there, so we’ve all come together, we’re all moving forward, so I think we’re very excited with the momentum we have going into November. 

You’re facing Democratic opponent Colin Van Ostern in this race, who you’ve worked with on the Executive Council for several years. How would you describe your relationship with him on the Council and where do you see the biggest differences between the two of you?

At the Executive Council, we handle council business. I wouldn’t use the word professional because it’s not our full-time jobs, but very cordial and I try my best to keep everything on the issues and not get bogged down in the politics. I’m hoping that will remain for the next 60 days as we go through here.

But the differences are quite stark, there’s no doubt about it. In many ways, the general election’s going to be a lot easier than the primary because the differences are so stark. Colin Van Ostern is extreme left wing, everyone knows that. He really has been a rubber stamp for Gov. Hassan. I fail to find a single difficult political decision he’s ever made. I don’t know of any and there may be a couple out there, but on one hand you could literally count the number of times he voted against one of the governor’s nominees. So there’s not a whole lot of thought process there on his end in terms of his decision making. He has a platform, he has an ideology he sticks with no matter what, very unwavering, whereas I have a record of really working across the aisle, working across lines. I don’t mind bucking my party when I need to because our job as public servants is for the constituents. It’s making sure that every time we cast a vote, it’s in the mindset of what is best for our constituents no matter what it means to personally, politically. I’ve taken those risks because that’s what’s important and that’s what the job calls for. It’s what I’ve done as councilor and it’s exactly what I’m going to do as governor.

You were one of many high-profile Republicans who last spring called on Congressman Frank Guinta to step down in the wake of his campaign finance violation. 

You said yesterday that Guinta’s win in the primary yesterday puts the issue to rest. But the fact of the case remains the same, so how do you explain your reversal on this?

Look, the issue is at rest. We’re past that now. He’s won his primary, Frank and I go back a long way. We’re very friendly. And I think he’s going to do a great job running this race in CD1, making a stark contrast between him and Carol Shea-Porter, who has been doing her job for the Obama administration.

The Republicans on this slate come November have one thing in common: we want to push back on the Obama bureaucracy that has completely put their arms in here, whether you’re talking about education, or business, or the environment. They have completely put their hands all over New Hampshire and eroded what is so special about us, which is local control.  

I know that you’ve said in the past that this is a media driven issue, but he still broke campaign finance law, that hasn’t changed. Why did you call for him to step down in the first place?

One thing we have to realize is this country needs major campaign finance reform. Have you ever read and understood the campaign finance laws? They’re immensely complex. And to be honest, I think Frank got completely tied up with not just where his money was coming from, but the laws and the rules. It is immensely complex. So it’s really a matter of he’s taken care of it, obviously the voters agree that it is not a significant issue. I support him 100 percent. He’s done a great job in Congress, there’s no doubt about that. We need to vote for folks based on their record. And Frank has done an incredibly good job representing the district. And that’s what we need to get behind; someone who brings real results and understands what’s important for the people of New Hampshire.