Kasich backs Sununu in tight GOP primary for governor

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Ohio Gov. John Kasich is endorsing Chris Sununu in the state’s tightly contested Republican gubernatorial primary, calling the executive councilor a pragmatic conservative in his own mold.

“I only have a couple years left in my term and my job now is to try to figure out who I can pass the baton too, the pragmatic conservative baton, so they can carry on with the next leg of the run,” Kasich said Monday.

Sununu is the only non-incumbent in a contested primary who the Ohio governor is endorsing, Kasich’s advisers said. The support raises Sununu’s visibility in the final weeks of a primary that’s flown largely under the radar. Sununu faces Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester and state Rep. Frank Edelblut in the Sept. 13 primary.

Sununu said he’s “humbled,” to win the support of Kasich, given his record during two terms leading Ohio. Sununu did not endorse Kasich in the New Hampshire presidential primary, but his brother, former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu did. The family ties seemed to play a large role in the endorsement.

“He understands what it takes to run a state, to do it in a compassionate sound way,” Sununu said of Kasich while accepting the endorsement.

The two campaigned in Exeter on Monday afternoon and were scheduled to attend an evening fundraiser in Boston.

Sununu said he’s a stronger candidate than his rivals because, as a business executive, he “lives and breathes” New Hampshire’s challenges every day. As chief executive of Waterville Valley ski resort, he said he understands the burden that comes from high health care and energy costs and what it takes to employ and pay hundreds of workers.

But his business has come under scrutiny recently, with published reports that a stake of Waterville Valley is held by out-of-state investors. Sununu has touted the resort as under local control, but the Union Leader reported a Virginia-based charity called SAFA Trust holds a share in the company. Sununu’s campaign confirmed that SAFA has a stake in the company.

Sununu said Monday all of Waterville’s investors are friends, family and locals. Sununu’s campaign said Yaqub Mirza, an executive of the charity, is a longtime Sununu family friend.

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