- The Washington Times - Monday, January 13, 2003

Sen. John E. Sununu may be the youngest member of this elite club, but he is no stranger to politics.
Mr. Sununu's father is former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, who also served as White House chief of staff from 1989 to 1992. The young senator's mother was chairman of the local school board and a major influence in his interest in politics.
However, the 38-year-old engineer says that on Capitol Hill, where most politicians are lawyers, he will bring the analytical mind of his profession.
"Lawyers have developed excellent skills for getting elected to office through powers of persuasion and powers of argument. They argue guilt or innocence, for or against, so rhetorical powers are an important part of the legal profession," Mr. Sununu says.
"It's fair to say many in the engineering profession don't have a natural skill of rhetoric that might make it a little easier to wage a political campaign. But when it comes to making policy, I want someone with the ability to sift through facts, data, information and history to develop the best possible legislative solution to a given problem, and that's a very difficult process," he says.
Mr. Sununu cut his political teeth working on his father's campaigns for the state Senate and governorship. But he plays down his family's political history and has chosen his own political path since he was elected to the House in 1996.
"It was helpful to have had the experience of working on campaigns across New Hampshire," Mr. Sununu says. "I had acquaintances and friends in most parts of the state, and a sense of the different needs, concerns and demographics of the state. All of those were helpful in putting together a winning campaign in 1996."
He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and holds a master's degree in business administration from Harvard.
Entering politics was an offshoot from growing up surrounded by it, not at his parents' urging.
"People often ask, 'Did your mom or dad encourage you?' In many respects, they were supportive, but initially they didn't provide forceful encouragement," Mr. Sununu says.
"Running for political office is analogous to getting married it's an enormous commitment. It can be among the most rewarding things an individual does, but it is not without its challenges," he says.
"A parent does not walk into the room and say, 'Go get married.' They know the challenges and demands cannot be taken lightly," he says.
His dry wit and sharp mind made him popular with voters who ousted incumbent Sen. Robert C. Smith in the primary election. Mr. Smith left the Republican Party in 1999 and joined the Constitution Party to seek its presidential nomination. He switched back to Republican three months later, but state Republicans questioned his loyalty.
Mr. Sununu went on to defeat three-term Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat, and maintain Republicans' hold on the Senate seat.
"I felt very strongly that the best thing for the state of New Hampshire was to make sure we had a strong voice in Washington and to help the president regain the majority in the Senate. And in the end, it was very important," Mr. Sununu says.
"I certainly believed that I would and could be the presumptive nominee, and that it would be a formidable campaign and well-funded, and that it would be a challenging race," Mr. Sununu says.
Mr. Sununu has been assigned to the Commerce Committee, the Banking Committee, and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Asked about being the youngest member in the chamber, his dry wit emerges.
"I'm sure I will be accorded all the deference that is normally given to the youngest member of the Senate," he says.

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