More GOP anger after Sununu releases Democrat-friendly CD card

If Gov. Chris Sununu is looking for a way to make Republican lawmakers even angrier at him, he’s found the card for it.

And he took it out too.

Last week, Sununu announced his decision to veto new maps of congressional districts that have been the subject of a months-long process of public hearings and negotiations between the Congress-controlled House and Senate. GOP. The maps would have created a first GOP-leaning congressional district, the only pro-GOP congressional district in the six New England states.

Instead, Sununu released a card on Tuesday that gives Democrats a virtual lock on Rep. Annie Kuster’s CD-2 (it was Biden +10.5% in 2020) and a ‘skinny Democrat’ in the CD. -1 from Rep. Chris Pappas (where Biden won by 4.5%).

“It’s certainly not the only solution, but I hope it helps. It keeps our districts competitive, passes the smell test, and holds our incumbents accountable so no elected official is immune to challengers or constituent services,” Sununu wrote in a letter to legislative leaders accompanying the map. “There is still plenty of time in this process to provide our citizens with a map that does the job.”

New Hampshire Democrats were thrilled with Sununu’s decision to veto the GOP maps — “I couldn’t agree with Governor Sununu more,” Pappas said at the time — and several have described the new version of Sununu as good as she’s likely to get a GOP legislature and governor.

Progressive Portsmouth State Senator Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, for example, said she was “glad to see the governor breaking with his party.”

Unsurprisingly, Granite State Republicans unhappy with Sununu’s decision are reluctant to speak publicly about a Republican governor. House Speaker Sherm Packard (R-Londonderry) declined to comment on the merits of Sununu’s map, saying simply that the veto presents another challenge the House will have to deal with before the end of the session.

“We’re going to get through this,” Packard said, and he identified May 5 as the key date for the process under state Senate rules. “We have to do it by then.”

On substance, however, other legislative Republicans were not so circumspect.

“It’s a map designed to elect Democrats,” a GOP source close to the redistricting told the NHJournal. “Why is he [Sununu] trying to do Nancy Pelosi a favor?

“I don’t think the Governor has a career in coloring,” another joked.

Many rejected the premise that the map is balanced. They argue that, while 2022 is shaping up to be a “red wave” year, in a typical election the seat would still be a Democratic district.

“Sununu’s map is great – if you’re a Democrat planning to run in CD1 or CD2,” a Republican familiar with the redistricting process told NHJournal.

Sununu’s decision is just the latest setback for Republicans, in New Hampshire and across the country, who believed the GOP’s success in the 2020 election cycle would help them retake the U.S. House of Representatives this fall. Voters gave Republicans control of 30 state legislatures, compared with 17 for Democrats. And Republicans control the governor’s office and the legislature in 23 states, while Democrats have full control in just 14.

But thanks to aggressive legal action by former Hillary Clinton attorney Marc Elias and redistricting states with elected Democrats sitting as judges, the consensus is that Republicans are losing the redistricting battle this cycle.

Sununu says his card proposal “passes the smell test”. Many Republicans disagree.

“It doesn’t pass our smell test,” said a GOP lawmaker. “I think it stinks.”

Jack L. Goldstein