Concord Monitor: Concord attorney Cinde Warmington enters three-way Executive Council primary for Volinsky seat

Cinde Warmington walks into work at a law firm every day. But her heart lies in the medical profession.

From an early job drawing blood to a role as a health care administrator, Warmington has proved her mettle in that arena.

“I tell people, I was born in a hospital; I never left,” said Warmington, now a partner at Shaheen & Gordon in Concord.

It’s a dual background that Warmington hopes will lead to a new phase in her career: public service. Earlier this month, Warmington announced her candidacy for New Hampshire’s District 2 Executive Council seat, the third Democrat and third Concord-based lawyer vying to replace Councilor Andru Volinsky, who is running for governor.

A seat on the Executive Council, the five-member body that approves state contracts and gubernatorial nominees, is a detail-intensive responsibility.

For Warmington, who has served in state Democratic politics for decades, it’s a chance to apply her political values and health care background to government.

“How can I not run, with everything that’s at stake?” Warmington said in an interview. “I see the opportunity to help and I’m, I think, uniquely qualified for the job given that I review contracts for a living. And that I have very, very intimate familiarity with Democratic values.”

Despite moving to law, Warmington has kept an active presence in the health care world. At Shaheen & Gordon, she works with securing contracts for providers across the state, and she chairs the Health Care Practice Group at the firm.

She’s stayed politically active as well; working for the Belknap County Democrats, serving as the Gilford town chairwoman; and presently heading the Democratic Party’s standing committee, which helps approve policy stances.

And she’s the spouse of Bill Christie, a lawyer for the state Democratic Party currently assisting the party’s lawsuit against a new “voter residency” law, House Bill 1264.

Warmington adds to a lively Democratic primary, brushing shoulders with Jay Surdukowski, a Sulloway and Hollis lawyer, and Leah Plunkett, an author and associate dean at the University of New Hampshire law school, in the fight for the seat.

And she jumps in at a time when the Council has earned a reputation for increased partisanship, with occasional tension between Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and the Democratically-controlled body.

But while Warmington said she expects the majority of contracts to sail through, she added that she would not hesitate to attach her own considerations.

“I think there are opportunities though where on some of these contracts, we can get in to the agency beforehand and let them know what we’d like to see in contracts,” she said. “A little opportunity to say ‘Hey, you know, I would like to see gender equity, I would like to see diversity, I would like to see fair wages in contracts.’ ”

Nominations require an even greater display of values from the Council, Warmington said. That starts with the Supreme Court, an issue that has splintered the court, ratcheted frustrations, and even led to disagreement among Warmington’s opponents.

In July, Democrats on the council voted 3-2 against confirming Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to the Chief Justice post on the Supreme Court, citing his past positions against Planned Parenthood and a lack of judicial experience, and angering Sununu, who has not nominated an alternative.

Warmington has joined Plunkett in applauding that decision, pointing to MacDonald’s work for the Catholic Church in support of the state’s parental notification abortion law in a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court case involving then-Attorney General Kelly Ayotte.

Surdukowski, meanwhile, backed the nominee, helping to organize a bipartisan letter in June from the state legal community in support of MacDonald, who he said had the legal bona fides for the job.

To Warmington, the Council’s decision on MacDonald was open and shut.

“I think that the Executive Council got it right,” she said. “I think we have a history and a tradition in this state of having a balanced Supreme Court. And I think the addition of a third very far-right, conservative justice would have thrown that out of balance.”

Warmington cited what she said was MacDonald’s opposition to a right to choose abortion and opposition to voting rights. MacDonald’s office is currently defending HB 1264 in U.S. District Court, a case in which Christie, Warmington’s husband, is assisting plaintiffs.

Sununu and other Republicans have blasted Democrats on the Council for what they see as a deviation from past traditions: keeping politics out of the selection of Supreme Court judges. But Warmington argued that political positions and other values are fair game when assessing someone with no court experience.

“If they’re a judge, that’s fairly easy. You can start, you know, you can look at decisions,” she said. “If they are not a judge, then you’re going to have to look to other political, public, other public positions that they may have taken in the past.”

Entering the race, Warmington is part of a trio of first-time Concord-centric candidates with relatively low name recognition, who must win over Democrats in a sprawling district that stretches between the Vermont and Maine borders. But she said her experience in both health care and politics will help her stand out.

“I have a pretty good idea of what happens at a very, you know, patient-centric level,” she said.

Her time in the party, she said, is just another plus.

“I just have been listening to Democrats for a decade now,” she said. “That’s really what we do. We listen and then we reflect back in the form of a platform what our values are.”

Read Ethan DeWitt’s piece in the Concord Monitor here.