Outgoing Republican State Chairman Gov. John Sununu sat down with NH Journal to talk about his Monday endorsement of Cheshire County Republican Committee Chairwoman Juliana Bergeron to replace him.
Sununu has concluded that Bergeron is the top candidate for the job and has nothing but good things to say about her main opponent tea party favorite Jack Kimball.
The governor leaves his position proud of the work the New Hampshire GOP has accomplished, but with one regret: Not winning the Corner Office of the State House on Nov. 2, 2010. Oh, and he’s not ready to endorse anyone for Chairman of the Republican National Committee yet.
Below is the transcript of our interview with Gov. John H. Sununu.
NHJ: Governor, thanks for sitting down with NH Journal to discuss your endorsement of Juliana Bergeron for NH GOP State Party Chair. What is your rational for picking Juliana?
JHS: I explained in my original letter to the NHGOP Executive Committee the qualities that I thought the next Chairman should have. And of the candidates running, Juliana fits the criteria best. She has experience as an activist, fundraising experience for charitable and political causes, and she did an outstanding job leading the Cheshire County Republican Committee. I believe she has all the qualities that are needed to successfully lead the State Committee.
NHJ: Do you think her long time experience at the grassroots will make a difference?
JHS: Of course experience in politics at a grassroots level makes a difference. Having been involved in town and county committees and campaigns gives Juliana a very good sense of how complicated the process of building coalitions and consensus really is. She is a true conservative with grassroots experience in one of the most liberal areas of the state. I think that’s important.
NHJ: Does she remind you of a former state party chair, a very successful one at that, one Nancy Sununu when she served as state chair when Ronald Reagan ran for and won the Presidency in 1980?
JHS: They both are smart, strong women with good relations with the business community and fundraising experience. And they both understand that in politics you need to pay attention to details to get the best results.
NHJ: When did you decide to endorse her and why now?
JHS: I do acknowledge that I encouraged her to run after viewing a list of 40 or 50 people who might seek the position. Juliana served on the NHGOP Executive Committee and I had a chance to work with her closely over the past two years. I was always impressed with Juliana’s political skills, her commitment to conservative principles and ability to lead her committee. But I held off on endorsing a candidate because I thought it would only be fair to see who announced before I made a final decision. I have spoken to many people across New Hampshire about possible candidates and announced candidates. And based on what I know, I am absolutely confident that Juliana is absolutely the best candidate to lead the State Committee.
NHJ: Any truth to the rumor that you would be willing to be “Chairman Emeritus”?
JHS: No. I want to golf, ski and play with my grandchildren. I am willing to help if asked, but I don’t need a title to help. I’ve also offered to help Senate President Peter Bragdon and Speaker Bill O’Brien in any way that I can. I just want to make sure our Republican Party maintains its momentum heading into the Presidential election. I can’t commit as much time as I have over the past two years and I need to get back to my business. My family recently purchased Waterville Valley, and the management of this property will keep me extremely busy. But on an occasional basis I am willing to be of assistance.
NHJ: Why didn’t you endorse Jack Kimball?
JHS: I made the decision on the basis of the criteria I feel very strongly about. And although I consider Jack a friend, and somebody that I think is going to be involved in Republican politics in New Hampshire for a long time, I had to make a choice between two friends. I chose Juliana because I think she has the set of qualifications that are critical for the job. In particular, I think Juliana’s experience at raising money – and she has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in the state – and the respect she has in the business community are two of her most valuable assets. And she is also a committed conservative who strongly supports our party platform.
NHJ: Do you think Kimball is up to the job? Does his lack of experience with grassroots republicans and organizations give you reason to pause?
JHS: I made a selection on the basis of positives, not negatives. And I think Juliana has the most positives and best fits the criteria to do the job well.
NHJ: What do you believe is the most important objective for the next state Republican chair?
JHS: Continuing to articulate a clear, conservative Republican agenda, and keeping the party strong enough financially and administratively to be able to compete with a very formidable New Hampshire Democrat Party. One of the reasons our party failed in previous election cycles is because we had a weak state committee that couldn’t properly support our candidates. The next chairman needs to make sure our party is strong and ready to take on the Democrat machine.
NHJ: What do you consider your biggest achievement during your tenure as state chair?
JHS: Bringing the party together and helping encourage activists to participate who don’t always feel comfortable with the party structure. I took the time to meet with almost every conservative group in New Hampshire, and I believe we developed an extremely positive working relationship with all of them. We unified all the pieces of the party to produce the outstanding results we had in 2010. We won because all of us – new activists, conservative groups, long time party activists and our elected officials – all worked together towards a common goal of defeating the Democrat’s tax and spend agenda.
NHJ: Do you have any regrets over the past two years?
JHS: The biggest regret is that we didn’t make it a full clean sweep on Nov 2. Even though John Stephen ran an outstanding campaign, we fell a few points short in the governor’s race.
NHJ: Have you decided whom you are going to support for National GOP Chair next week? Will you back anyone but Steele regardless of the outcome for your preferred candidate?
JHS: At this stage I do support the “anyone but Steele” concept. But I have not yet made up my mind about who I will support. I have narrowed it down to a few choices, but I don’t want to discuss them until I get down to the meeting in Maryland next week.