New Hampshire conservatives launch long-shot effort to impeach GOP governor after mask mandate

Sununu won a landslide re-election victory earlier this month

A small group of conservative state lawmakers in New Hampshire is pushing to impeach popular Republican Gov. Chris Sununu over his efforts to combat the coronavirus.

The libertarian-minded Republican lawmakers – five incumbent state representatives and two reprensentatives-elect – charge that the governor has exceeded his constitutional authority as he’s taken steps to prevent the spread of the pandemic, the worst to sweep the nation and the globe in a century.

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Their efforts to pursue a resolution to impeach Sununu in the upcoming 2021 legislative session comes just days after the governor last week implemented a mask mandate, making New Hampshire the 37th state in the nation to have mask requirements. And it comes in the wake of an anti-mask protest outside the governor’s private home.

The governor’s office has not responded to the impeachment push, but New Hampshire GOP chair Steve Stepanek told Fox News, “I think anybody who’s calling for his impeachment is misguided.”

“This move was not taken lightly,” state Rep. Andrew Prout said in a statement announcing the resolution, which calls for an impeachment inquiry to be held in the state House of Representatives’ judiciary committee. “We must restore our government to its constitutional roots — with checks and balances — where the Legislature writes the laws and the executive branch implements them.”

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Taking aim at the governor’s use of emergency powers amid the coronavirus crisis, state Rep. Michael Sylvia said, “I was not elected to stand by while our Constitution is shredded before our eyes.” And state Rep. Melissa Blasek argued, “We can’t have our Governor acting as a King.”

Sununu earlier this month won a landslide reelection victory to a third two-year term as New Hampshire governor. And his coattails helped Republicans regain the majority in both the state House and Senate as well as the five-member Executive Council, which serves as an elective cabinet.

Stepanek, praising the governor’s efforts helping fellow Republicans in the 2020 elections, emphasized that “this cycle the governor went overboard – he gave his time, his name, his money, to help all down-ballot Republicans.”

And in a statement, Stepanek and NHGOP vice-chair Pam Tucker wrote that the state party “has always and will continue to stand with Governor Sununu and his team as he fights for Granite Staters during this global pandemic. Talk of impeachment is a severe obfuscation of the reasons Granite Staters elected Republicans on Nov. 3 and these House members seeking headlines will look foolish when this effort falls flat before it even gets off the ground.”

A conservative New Hampshire lawmaker, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, told Fox News that there’s little support for this impeachment drive outside the seven lawmakers behind the push.

The governor’s mandate requires people in New Hampshire wear a mask or face covering in public spaces, indoors and outdoors, when they cannot be socially distanced from other people by at least 6 feet. But the order does not impose any fines or other punishments for those to don’t wear masks and includes nine exemptions – including people with medical conditions that make them unable to wear a mask.

Sununu implemented the mandate after a surge in new cases of the coronavirus and a doubling of the number of hospitalizations in two weeks.

“By wearing your mask, you help us keep our friends, family, neighbors and critical workforce members and those they care for safe, as well as our economy open,” the governor tweeted on the day he announced the mandate.

On Sunday, anti-mask protesters demonstrated outside Sununu’s home in Newfields, New Hampshire. They vowed to come back each weekend and demonstrate until the mask mandate was lifted.

The protest has been criticized by people across the political spectrum for taking place outside the governor’s private home, rather than at the State House in the capital city of Concord.

“I think it’s totally unacceptable – whether they be Democrats or Republicans – to protest at a politician’s private home,” Stepanek said.

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This isn’t the first time Sununu’s faced protests over his coronavirus steps in a state known for its libertarian streak. In March and April a group known as “Reopen NH” protested regularly outside the State House over the governor’s orders that temporarily shutdown some businesses and restaurants.

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