By DAMIEN FISHER, InDepthNH.org
Gov. Chris Sununu’s surprise trip to Kentucky on Monday, paid for by entrepreneur Dean Kamen, is raising questions about the purpose of the trip.
Sununu’s team released a statement on Monday that the governor was heading to Kentucky with a host of state officials, New Hampshire hospital CEOs, and Kamen, to look at the COVID-19 operations in the southern state.
“Like New Hampshire, Kentucky is a rural state with small cities,” Sununu in the statement. “Today, I joined NH state officials in visiting Kentucky to help inform our decision making in the weeks and months ahead to see how they are handling their COVID surge, how hospitals are managing through this crisis, and to hear what tools they have found to be effective in battling this most recent wave virus.”
Sununu met with health care officials at Frankfort Regional Medical Center and at the Kentucky statehouse to meet with Gov. Andy Beshear, according to his press team. Kentucky is home to powerful Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who has reportedly been recruiting Sununu to run for Senate against Maggie Hassan. But, Sununu’s press team said, he did not meet with McConnell.
“Governor Sununu’s trip is focused solely on the medical care of COVID and therefore did not notify nor will meet with anyone in Kentucky’s Congressional Delegation during the visit,” Ben Vihstadt, Sununu’s spokesman, said.
When pressed, Vihstadt stated that Kamen flew Sununu and his team down to Kentucky on his private airplane, at no cost to the state. Vihstadt said all of the members of the executive team that made the trip will be filing appropriate financial disclosures.
Pam Muzeroll responded on Twitter: “Please, we know this is about McConnell pushing you to run for the Senate.”
After one of the deadliest COVID weeks on record in several months, with 18 reported deaths last week, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley was not buying Sununu’s reasons for going to Kentucky.
“Both Memorial Hospital in Conway and Dartmouth-Hitchcock have announced that they are once again taking emergency measures because of the surge in COVID cases,” Buckley said in a statement “Why isn’t Chris Sununu visiting them? Or visiting Vermont and Maine, both rural states that have surpassed New Hampshire in vaccinating their citizens, reducing the risk of COVID surges. Sununu needs to answer serious questions about why he is ditching New Hampshire to travel to Mitch McConnell’s home state.”
Along with Sununu was Lori Shibinette, Commissioner for the Department of Health and Human Services, Jonathan Ballard, CMO for the Department of Health and Human Services, David Mikolaities, Adjutant General, State of New Hampshire, Jayne Millerick, Sununu’s chief of staff, Kamen, President of DEKA Research & Development, Michelle McEwen, CEO of Speare Memorial Hospital, and Marc Grossman, ER Medical Director at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.