Four-Term New Hampshire Governor Delivers His Final State-Of-The-State Speech

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu delivers remarks during his State of the State address at the State House, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu delivers remarks during his State of the State address at the State House, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu delivered his final state-of-the-state address Thursday, urging lawmakers to continue on the path of fiscal prudence and limited government that he said has made New Hampshire “a beacon of success.”

“Continued success is not inevitable. We must continually challenge ourselves, putting individuals before the system, to strive to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars and more accountable to the people of the state,” he said. “Over these last seven years, New Hampshire has stood out as a beacon of success and a safe haven for freedom and opportunity. We have all put in the hard work, and this has always been a true team effort.”

Sununu, who is only the second governor in New Hampshire history to serve four terms, has just under a year left in the corner office. After flirting with running for U.S. Senate and president, he announced in July that he wouldn’t seek another term as governor, though he joked about that decision Thursday.

“The filing period to run again isn’t until June, so you never know!” he said, before quickly adding, “Just kidding!”

The son of a former governor, Sununu was the youngest top executive in the country when he took office in 2017 at age 42. Now 49, he has seen control of the Legislature flip from Republican to Democrat and back again, with a near-even split in the 400-member House during his fourth term. At times he’s had a rocky relationship with members of his own party thanks to the growing influence of libertarian-leaning members bent on severely limiting state government. But he gave lawmakers credit Thursday for what he deemed one of the state’s greatest achievements during that time: the bipartisan budget that sailed through the Legislature last year.

“It didn’t come with any gimmicks or any promises. It was achieved with a lot of hard work,” he said.

Senate Minority Donna Soucy, a Democrat from Manchester, said she was pleased to hear that praise, while noting one topic Sununu didn’t bring up.

“I think it was most notable that the governor’s greatest accomplishment was the Legislature’s accomplishment,” she said. “The one thing I thought was an omission on his part was the fact that he’s the first governor in New Hampshire’s history to sign an abortion ban. Clearly it must be something he’s not very proud of.”

Sununu signed a state budget in 2021 that included a ban on abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy, saying the alternative would have been a veto that would have shut down state government during the coronavirus pandemic. The current Legislature is considering at least half a dozen bills aimed at either further restricting the procedure or enshrining abortion rights in state law.

His speech Thursday lasted less than half an hour, barely four minutes for each year in office. He highlighted investments in affordable housing, education and mental health, using the latter as a springboard to discussion of the state’s opioid crisis. Sununu described successful programs that connect those struggling with addiction with services and recovery-friendly workplaces.

Sununu then segued into his recent plan to join other states in sending National Guard soldiers to Texas to control illegal crossings on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“The fentanyl supply over America’s southern border is increasing daily,” said Sununu, who will ask the Legislature’s fiscal committee for $850,000 on Friday to send 15 Guard members to Texas. “This is not a Texas problem. This is a national crisis, and New Hampshire has the chance to provide specialized support, follow the laws of the land and keep our citizens safe.”