Executive Council Races Could Mean Woman Majority

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Paula Tracy file photo

Members of the Executive Council and Gov. Chris Sununu take a break after meeting at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye last October. From left are councilors Russell Prescott, Gov. Sununu, Debora Pignatelli and from left standing are Councilors Mike Cryans, Andru Volinsky and Ted Gatsas.

By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org

CONCORD – It is possible that New Hampshire could have its first-ever female majority on the five-member state Executive Council.

Ray Buckley, head of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said the potential exists to have at least three women calling the shots at the table with the governor for the next two years.

There are three Democratic women in the general election and one Republican woman on the ballot this time, as well.

Executive Councilors Russell Prescott and Andru Volinsky are not on the ballot.

Volinsky of Concord ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor while Prescott, a Republican from Kingston, decided to retire.

Councilors Debora Pignatelli of Nashua, a Democrat; Mike Cryans of Hanover, a Democrat; and Republican Ted Gatsas of Manchester are all on the ballot seeking re-election to their respective districts.

The council has an important and unique job in United States democracy.

It oversees decisions of the governor and acts as an oversight body on contracts as well. It confirms the governor’s nominations to the courts and state department heads and approves or rejects most state contracts.

The full list of duties is here: https://www.nh.gov/council/about-us/index.htm
Currently, Democrats outnumber Republicans on the council 3-2.

It is likely that if Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is returned to the office and he has a new council, he will nominate Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to be the state’s Supreme Court chief justice.

He failed to get that key nomination through on a partisan vote with the current council, though Democrats said he was not qualified.

The five seats are broken up geographically with District 1 the northern half of the state, District 2 in the Concord Area, District 3 in the Seacoast, District 4 in the Manchester area, and District 5 in the Nashua area.

District 1 incumbent Cryans, who was uncontested in the Democratic primary, will face Republican Joe Kenney who previously held the post. Kenney served the North Country after the death of longtime Executive Councilor Ray Burton, a Bath Republican.

In the past, it has been considered a fairly conservative district.

District 2 had a crowded field in the primary with Volinsky out seeking higher office. He did not quite make it in a close race with state Sen. Dan Feltes who is challenging Sununu.

On the Republican side, Jim Beard and Stewart Levenson fought it out and Beard won with about 53 percent of the vote.

Beard will face off against Democrat Cinde Warmington of Concord for the District 2 seat. She beat Leah Plunkett, a law professor, by fewer than 1,000 votes, besting John Shea, Emmett Soldati, Jay Surdukowski, and Craig Thompson in the primary.

In District 3, two women will vie for the seat. That is Democrat Mindi Messmer who will face Republican Janet Stevens.

Messmer is known for her work researching chemical spills and contamination of water in southern New Hampshire and working to ensure the state responds and holds businesses accountable.
She beat Patty Lovejoy in the primary.

On the Republican side, Stevens beat Timothy Comerford and Bruce Crochetiere in the primary.
District 4 incumbent Ted Gatsas, a Manchester Republican, was unopposed in his primary but will face longtime state union organizer Mark S. MacKenzie, who during the Democratic primary won over Kolawole Ernest Adewumi and Jerome Duval.

District 5 incumbent Debora Pignatelli of Nashua, a Democrat, was unopposed but will face a Republican and former councilor Dave Wheeler, who defeated former state Sen. Bob Clegg in the primary election.

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