‘Political theater’: Sununu’s border deployment plan draws fire

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu announces details of a new Northern Border Alliance Task Force, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Concord, N.H. The task force will use $1.4 million to increase patrols of the Canadian border despite minimal evidence of large-scale illegal crossings (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

By Colin Booth

February 14, 2024

Governor Chris Sununu’s request for $850,000 to deploy 15 New Hampshire National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border is facing a barrage of criticism, with opponents alleging a political stunt at New Hampshire taxpayers’ expense.

In a statement released by his office Sununu citied a need to stem the flow of illegal crossings along the Texas-Mexico border, yet detractors paint his actions as political grandstanding to appease conservative voters.

State Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley issued a scathing condemnation, linking Sununu directly to recent partisan maneuvers meant to score points in the upcoming presidential election. 

“Congressional Republicans just killed bipartisan border security reforms on Donald Trump’s orders,” Buckley charged. “Now, Chris Sununu wants to funnel Granite Staters’ tax money into bailing out his MAGA allies for their own political games.”

This deployment request isn’t Sununu’s first border excursion; in October 2022, he sent over 150 NH National Guard personnel to the southern border. However, critics maintain that these moves are mere posturing, playing on base fears, while federal inaction—ironically instigated by Republican lawmakers—is the true driver of the border crisis.

Sununu joins a chorus of Republican governors, most notably Texas Governor Greg Abbott, theatrically decrying the Biden Administration’s border handling in an election year. Abbott’s clashes with federal authorities in defiance of a Supreme Court decision against his controversial deployment of deadly razor wire highlight the extent to which GOP leaders seem willing to politicize the border issue.

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New Hampshire House Democrats have leveled blistering criticism at the proposed expenditure. Ranking Finance Committee member Rep. Mary Jane Wallner (D-Concord) sees the move as a cynical distraction from Republicans’ failures on the national level.

“Instead of posturing about the border, let’s deal with the root cause his party created! Backing an actual bipartisan Border Bill was possible,” Wallner said. “But Republicans preferred political theater. What a shameful choice!”

Rep. Corinne Morse (D-Canaan) questioned the priorities behind the funding request: “We struggle to fund vital state programs, yet we’re asked to approve 850,000 for a stunt to boost someone’s election profile? It’s outrageous!”

Gubernatorial candidate Kelly Ayotte, echoing conservative rhetoric, firmly backed Sununu’s initiative. 

“Biden’s open borders are flooding NH with fentanyl!” she said. “With Biden failing, governors must act – I fully support Gov. Sununu’s efforts to combat this crisis and will always fight for strong borders.” 

Ayotte’s stance reflects typical election-year Republican messaging framing the border and migrants as a source of uncontrolled danger.

Critics have also pointed to Sununu’s recent actions along the state’s northern border with Canada as another example of the governor using taxpayer funds to take action on border issues motivated toward political outcomes rather than policy goals.

Despite minimal evidence of large-scale illegal crossings, the governor proposed the “Northern Border Alliance,” a deployment of law enforcement resources with a $1.4 million price tag. 

The ACLU of New Hampshire strongly contested this action, highlighting that border patrol officers only had 21 encounters with migrants in New Hampshire over a 15-month time span.

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

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