CONWAY — Mike Cryans believes the “fourth time will be the charm” in his bid to become the executive councilor for District 1. The Hanover Democrat thinks the “blue wave” of his party could propel him to victory on Tuesday in the general election.
“You saw that in the primary, there was all this excitement,” he said. “I’m hoping it plays through on Tuesday. Who knows what can happen, but I’m optimistic. You know, the last time in a non-presidential year, it was a pretty close race. I’m fairly confident that I can do it. I’ll do all I can between now and election day.”
Cryans is challenging incumbent Joe Kenney (R-Wakefield) for the two-year executive council seat.
District 1 represents all the towns and cities in the counties of Coos and Grafton, the unincorporated place of Hale's Location, the towns of Albany, Alton, Andover, Bartlett, Brookfield, Center Harbor, Chatham, Conway, Cornish, Croydon, Danbury, Eaton, Effingham, Freedom, Gilford, Grantham, Hart's Location, Hill, Jackson, Madison, Meredith, Middleton, Milton, Moultonborough, New Durham, New Hampton, New London, Newport, Ossipee, Plainfield, Sanbornton, Sandwich, Springfield, Sunapee, Tamworth, Tilton, Tuftonboro, Wakefield, Wilmo, and Wolfeboro, and the cities of Claremont and Laconia.
In early 2014, Cryans and Kenney went toe-to-toe in a special election to fill the seat of the late Ray Burton, who had held the seat continuously from 1981-2013 and had a first term in the late 1970s. Kenney won.
In November of that year, Kenney again beat Cryans a second time in a close regular election.
Cryans, 68, a Grafton County commissioner, fell in the third match-up in 2016. Kenney held off a challenge by Cryans, winning 72,803 to 65,352.
In Carroll County, Kenney topped Cryans 16,053 to 11,047. In Conway, voters picked Kenney, 2,499 to 2,247.
Cryans was in town twice this week, running in the White Mountain Milers’ 5K on Sunday, and then came back on Tuesday night with his wife Julie, to attend the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting.
Neither Kenney nor Cryans faces a primary challenge. Their campaigns have flown a little under the radar when compared to the races for governor and 1st Congressional District seat.
The two have appeared on the same stage only once this election at a televised forum in Plymouth earlier this fall.
“I’m just trying to meet and listen to as many people as possible,” said Cryans, who has run on average 10 miles every day for the past 28 years and sits at 98,500 miles.
“People ask me are there similarities between running and running for office or any differences. I’ll give you a difference. When you’re training for a marathon, the last two weeks, you taper (off). When you’re running for elected office, the last two weeks you work harder than at any time, it becomes a sprint to the finish.”
In meetings with Granite Staters, Cryans said the opioid crisis and health care are the topics most on people’s minds.
“It’s hard not to have been touched by knowing someone who hasn’t been touched by this (opioid) problem,” said Cryans, who for about a decade ran a non-profit called Headrest Inc. in Lebanon that addressed substance abuse.
“When you have a small state like ours, and each of the past two years you have 500 people dying (from opioid-related deaths), you know it’s a huge problem. If you said that New Hampshire, which is roughly 1/300th of this country, you do the simple math and if the headline said, ‘150,000 people die from overdoses,’ it would catch people’s eye.”
Cryans sees some good news in the state receiving federal funding, but he would like to see the pace pick up a little on its distribution.
“We almost need to have a laser focus and say, ‘Let’s not keep on talking, let’s get this money out,’ because every day one and a half people are dying in this state.”
Cryans said there were votes he and Kenney would have differed on.
“I would not have voted for the commissioner of education (Frank Edelblut),” he said. “I just felt that if I had been there, I don’t think that Gov. (Chris) Sununu would have nominated him, and if he had, I would not have voted for him because I think you need somebody who is a strong believer in the public school system and I didn’t feel he was.”
Another difference was on Planned Parenthood.
“I would have voted for the contract, Joe voted against it,” Cryans said.
Cryans, who served on the same board of commissioners as Burton, said constituent service is his top priority.
“It’s so important and I hear from a lot of people we don’t see Joe,” he said. “I’ve got nothing against Joe Kenney, and I’m the first one to say, none of us will ever be like Ray Burton. With Ray, that was his whole life and he was remarkable at it.”
Cryans shared a couple of “Ray” stories.
“I have to chuckle,” he said. “I was at a commissioner’s meeting with Ray and I’d say, what are you up to this afternoon Ray? He said, ‘Well, I’ve got to run up to Colebrook, they’re having a water problem. Then I’m going down to North Conway because they have an issue they want me to help with. Then, I’m going over to Laconia, and, oh, then I’ve got to make it back for the church supper.”
Burton was everywhere.
“I got one secret out of him one day,” Cryans said. “He and I went to the hospital to visit somebody, and we’re leaving the hospital and he turned to me and said, 'You made a mistake in there.’ I said, ‘I did, what did I do?’ He said, ‘You took your coat off. If you take your coat off they think you’re going to stay awhile.’ You think about that and there’s some truth to that. He was pretty matters of fact in that regard. He was a great mentor, I learned a lot.”
Cryans said someone once said to Burton, “Ray, you keep your signs up in certain places,” and he said, “Coca-Cola never takes theirs down, do they?”
He sees the finish line dead ahead but said he’s got “a ton of work” still to do on this campaign.
“When I started last year, there were 412 days to Election Day, and now we’re down in the single digits. You look back on it and a great experience, and I’ve enjoyed it, but I don’t want to give up now, I’m going to work as hard as I can.”