- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 21, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is nominating a lawyer with experience fighting against the state to serve as its next attorney general.

Sununu will nominate Manchester-based attorney Gordon MacDonald on Wednesday to be the state’s top prosecutor. MacDonald practices commercial litigation as a partner at Nixon Peabody and has represented hospitals and a major opioid manufacturer in disputes with the state. He’s also active in volunteer legal aid programs, and colleagues and fellow attorneys describe him as a thoughtful and meticulous lawyer.

Sununu said MacDonald, throughout a distinguished legal career, has demonstrated “exceptional legal talent with the highest levels of respect for the rule of law.”

“Gordon is widely respected across New Hampshire’s legal community and has earned a sterling reputation for his legal talents and commitment to public service,” Sununu said in a statement Tuesday.

If confirmed by the Executive Council, MacDonald will replace Joe Foster, who was nominated by Sununu’s Democratic predecessor, now U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan.

“I am humbled by this nomination,” MacDonald said in a statement. “As the state’s chief law enforcement and legal officer, the responsibilities of this office are great.”

MacDonald describes himself as an expert in health care law, and he’s represented state hospitals against the state and federal governments over Medicaid reimbursements, coverage for uncompensated care and provider taxes. In 2014, he represented a group of hospitals in a tax fight with the state that was eventually settled through legislation.

And he’s represented Purdue Pharma, an opioid manufacturer, in a court battle with the office he’s preparing to lead. Foster opened an investigation in 2015 into whether Purdue and other drug makers deceptively marketed opioids. Over-prescribing of opioids is seen as a key cause of New Hampshire’s present heroin and fentanyl crisis. MacDonald was listed as one of Purdue’s attorneys in court filings as recently as September.

The investigation is on hold as the state Supreme Court weighs whether the state can hire outside counsel for additional help. A spokeswoman for the court said MacDonald is listed as an “active attorney” for Purdue but his name is not on any briefs.

MacDonald declined to answer questions about whether he still represents Purdue. He referred inquiries about his current practice to the governor’s office.

Spokesman Dave Abrams said Sununu has worked closely with MacDonald to identify instances in which the Department of Justice’s recusal policy may apply.

“Gordon has every intention of upholding the integrity of the attorney general’s office by recusing himself when necessary,” Abrams said.

Beyond his professional practice, MacDonald is active in New Hampshire’s legal community. For three years, he chaired the Campaign for Legal Services’ fundraising efforts to support legal assistance for low-income people, and he is a volunteer attorney for a domestic-violence assistance program. He also chairs the New Hampshire Board of Bar Examiners.

“For someone who has incredible demands on his time on a daily basis he’s always made it a priority to make sure that the legal system meets the needs of the most vulnerable people in our society,” said Sarah Palermo, campaign director for the Campaign for Legal Services.

MacDonald also is active in Republican politics. He served as chief of staff to former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey in the 1980s and was a delegate for Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential bid at last summer’s GOP convention.

The council is likely vote on April 5 on MacDonald’s nomination.

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