Ohio Gov. John Kasich has made his foray into New Hampshire politics by endorsing Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu on Monday.
Sununu faces a contested primary against Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, businessman Frank Edelblut and state Sen. Jeanie Forrester. Kasich called Sununu “a pragmatic conservative.”
“He’s solid, he’s calm, he’s in the best tradition of public service, which the Sununus’ have always represented,” Kasich said at a press conference Monday morning. “And I’m going to be able to call him Governor Chris Sununu soon.”
After the press conference, Kasich walked with Sununu around Exeter to drum up support, and in the evening, Kasich attended a fundraising event in Boston.
The Ohio governor pointed to Sununu’s experience when he was the chief executive of the Waterville ski resort as a strong qualification.
The New Hampshire Union Leader reported Sunday that a principal investor in the resort is high up in an Islamic charity that was once investigated for funneling money to terrorists.
Sununu said the allegations are not true, and they impact more than him, but his employees, too.
“When this, these types of false allegations, I mean they are slanderous, frankly bordering on racism, to be blunt about it,” he said at the press conference.
Kasich’s return to New Hampshire sparked speculation that he might be looking at a White House bid in 2020. He finished second in the Granite State in its primary behind Republican nominee Donald Trump.
But he told NH1 that it’s too early to think about that.
“You know that’s like impossible to say. You know it’s just like talking to somebody who just finished a marathon and say, ‘do you want to go and do another one,’” he said. “I don’t close the door on anything. I also have a couple years left as governor. I intend to run a Usain Bolt through the rope there and cross the finish line strong. And then we’ll see what happens.”
He held a reception on Sunday at the Concord Country Club as a “thank you” to his top supporters in the state during his campaign.
It’s no surprise that Kasich and the Sununu family are close. Former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu, Chris’s brother, was Kasich’s campaign chair during the primary. Their father, former governor and White House chief of staff John H. Sununu, remained neutral in the primary, but offered Kasich public and private encouragement.
Although Kasich endorsed the younger Sununu for governor, they both have handled Trump differently. Sununu has endorsed the Republican nominee, but Kasich has not. The Ohio governor did not attend the Republican National Convention even though it was held in his home state.
Kasich said New Hampshire has become his second favorite state, and he plans on coming back to campaign for Sen. Kelly Ayotte in her close race.