PEABODY — New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu gave a full endorsement of Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Doughty at a fundraiser Wednesday night, saying the Wrentham businessman has the best chance to beat Democrat Maura Healey in November’s general election.
Sununu, who is currently seeking a fourth term as New Hampshire’s governor, told a room of about 40 supporters that he’s certain Doughty’s primary opponent, Whitman state lawmaker Geoff Diehl, a conservative backed by former president Donald Trump, won’t appeal to enough GOP voters to challenge Healey.
“What’s the freaking point if you’re not going to win in November?” Sununu told the audience at the Boston Marriott Peabody. “This is Massachusetts. Know your audience ... and [Doughty] knows his audience.”
Doughty said he’s delighted to have Sununu in his corner.
“I think we both have a similar worldview, which is good jobs and a strong economy,” Doughty said in an interview as the fundraiser wrapped up. “I think he’s results-oriented, and so am I. I like results and I like measurables and I like to hit goals and so does he, so I think we’re aligned on a lot of things that way.”
In a radio debate last month, Diehl painted Doughty, who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, as not being loyal to the Republican Party. Following the fundraiser Wednesday, Sununu told reporters that Doughty would bring conservative ideas to the governor’s office while also having an “openness and willingness” to work with a Democratic legislature.
“It has to be ... a Republican governor, like Chris Doughty, that connects with people on real issues,” Sununu said. “Where people go, ‘I might not agree with every policy, but this is an individual that really connects with us and that can work with the legislature [and] they can get stuff done.’”
“If you’re just an extremist, nothing’s going to happen,” Sununu added. “[Voters] want someone that actually moves the dial.”
Recent polls have shown Healey with a commanding lead over both Republican candidates. In a Suffolk University / Boston Globe poll released last week, Healey was up by more than 30 percentage points over both Diehl and Doughty, while 23 percent of respondents said they were undecided.
The state primary election is Sept. 6.
Sununu said a Healey win would bring “a wave of socialism” to Massachusetts.
Doughty greeted Sununu outside the Marriott function room, and the two didn’t stray far from each other for the rest of the night as they took pictures and selfies with supporters before sitting down on a pair of stools at the head of the room for a brief “fireside chat.”
The conversation mainly focused on taxes and trying to keep businesses and residents from moving out of the state. Sununu did most of the talking, saying that Massachusetts could cut “25 percent of [its] state government bureaucracy” and residents “won’t blink at it because they won’t even notice.”
“That doesn’t mean [losing] frontline services,” Sununu said. “You’re not taking away child protection workers, you’re not taking away recovery and treatment programs. What you’re taking away is the four layers of middle-level bureaucracy, and you are demanding more of your managers, your commissioners. And that isn’t just to save a buck, that makes them better commissioners and it makes them better directors.”
Sununu said he is pleased that people have been moving from Massachusetts to New Hampshire in greater numbers in recent years, as data has shown, but he said New England relies on Massachusetts maintaining a strong economy.
“We need you,” he told the audience. “It’s great that people are moving to New Hampshire, don’t get me wrong ... but the economic engine of Massachusetts has to be clicking for all of us in New England to be successful, which is why I’m down here ... because I need you guys to have a governor that can win in November.”