Warmington is the first to jump into Democrat race for Governor


Monitor staff

Published: 06-01-2023 6:20 PM

The Democratic race for governor has its first official candidate as Cinde Warmington, the Executive Council’s lone Democrat, launched her bid for the corner office Thursday.

Warmington, who is serving her second term on the five-member council, promised to focus on the state’s housing shortage, access to mental health services and reproductive freedom in New Hampshire if elected governor.

Her timing comes a week or two before Republican Governor Chris Sununu will announce whether he will seek a historic fifth term or run for president, opening the seat up to challengers from both parties.

As the minority voice on the Executive Council, Warmington, of Concord, has often come head to head with her GOP colleagues and Sununu. 

“I have been the last line of defense against some pretty extremist Republican positions,” she said.

Last year, the council voted to defund Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire, as well as several sex education programs. In both situations, Warmington was the lone voice advocating for reproductive freedom and education, which she will continue to prioritize as governor, she said.

“When you defund services for contraception and cancer screenings, and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment because you don’t believe in abortion, I mean, you’re really putting the lives of the people of New Hampshire and the health of the people in New Hampshire in jeopardy,” she said. “That is just plain wrong.”

In the background, Warmington said she worked with the state’s congressional delegation to secure grants for Planned Parenthood and sex education programs to continue these services in the aftermath of the council’s cuts.

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On the housing front, Warmington said she is working on a policy plan that will address the need for development and incentives to build as the state faces a critical housing shortage, with a current deficit of 20,000 units.

This year, the Executive Council signed off on Sununu’s Invest NH program – which utilized American Rescue Plan Act funding to create a $100 million housing fund that supports development and zoning to promote more housing.

It’s one of many policy programs that have come through the Executive Council, as they are in charge of approving all state contracts over $10,000, as well as overseeing appointments to state departments and judicial positions.

Warmington said serving on the council was like a crash course in state government that will prepare her as the next leader for New Hampshire.

“As Executive Councilor, I have a bird’s eye view of everything that’s going on in state government and I think I’m in the best position to take back the corner office,” she said in an interview with the Monitor.

One policy point that has not made it before the council – despite a rollercoaster of approvals and rejections in the legislature – is marijuana legalization. New Hampshire is the sole state in New England that does not allow for the recreational use and cultivation of marijuana.

Sununu recently indicated his support for a legalization policy – after publicly signaling he would veto any legislation – if it included regulations regarding advertising and taxes.

Legislators now are scrambling to see if a policy will pass both chambers before the end of the session.

Marijuana policy will absolutely be a key component of Warmington’s campaign, she said. She supports legalization, as long as it is regulated and taxed.

Prior to her election to the Executive Council in 2020, she was a lawyer specializing in health care for Shaheen and Gordon in Concord, and later became a partner and chair of the Health Care Practice Group.

She also has served on boards for community mental health facilities, including Riverbend.

With this background, access to mental health treatment is also at the forefront of her campaign’s policy points.

“I know the value of community-based services, and I think that we need to be investing in our community-based services and in mental health treatment all around across the spectrum to make sure that we have the full continuum of care available,” she said.

Prior to serving on the Executive Council, Warmington did not have any experience in politics.

But when she was approached to run for a vacant seat in District 2, Democrats held the majority on the Council. She assumed she’d be working alongside colleagues in her party.

Instead, she’s now served two terms where Republicans hold all other seats.

“I had to figure out, how do I lead from a minority position,” she said. “And I have been incredibly effective at delivering results for the people of New Hampshire from a 4-1 minority.”

With an 18-month road to the November 2024 election, Warmington is the only candidate who has formally declared for the Democratic primary. Joyce Craig, the current mayor of Manchester, has indicated she will not seek reelection and instead has formed an exploratory committee for an impending gubernatorial bid.

On the Republican side, it is unclear if Sununu will either seek a fifth term, join a field of GOP candidates in the presidential primary, or return to the private sector.

Warmington said she’s focused on policy issues “as they come” and does not brand her style of politics as progressive or moderate.

“I take every issue as it comes to me I look at the issue I look at the facts and I make the best decisions I can make based on the facts and circumstances,” she said.

Warmington currently represents one-fifth of the state or approximately 263,000 citizens – with her district stretching from Concord into Coos County.

It’s her favorite part of the job, she said, and one that will guide her gubernatorial campaign as she’s already had practice in understanding the vastly different needs of constituents from urban to rural areas.

“You learn so much about our state about the very unique differences between our different communities between the North Country in Cheshire County and Concord,” she said. “It’s fascinating and honestly, it’s an honor to serve.”