Benson takes Heed: Governor picks his AG

Benson takes Heed

After months of delays, Governor Craig Benson has finally chosen an Attorney General. He announced the nomination at the Executive Council meeting this afternoon. New Hampshire Public Radio’s Raquel Maria Dillon reports.

Listen to MP3: Benson Take Heed (Script after jump)

BENSON :03 I’d like to nominate Peter Heed for AG.

The entire room blinked. And Governor Craig Benson adjourned the meeting. It seemed everyone was expecting him to nominate Manchester lawyer and former First Assistant U-S Attorney David Vicinanzo. Even the Union Leader put its money on the Manchester lawyer. Benson’s pick of Peter Heed was a surprise – even to the nominee himself:

HEED :12 I was sitting there with the Union Leader article and I felt a little like Truman when the paper came out about Dewey. Then I get a call from the Governor and he said I was the man.

Peter Heed was just elected to his second term as Cheshire County Attorney. He got his start in the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office, where he worked with Warren Rudman, David Souter, and Tom Rath.

HEED :14 I started out in prosecution, I was a defense attorney for many years, now I’m back in prosecution. And I just think the AG should be the leader, out front, visible, lead by example.

Heed said he was willing to take a second look at some of the state’s prior legal cases, including the Claremont school funding decision. He also said he would pursue the death penalty in cases where it’s appropriate.

Benson had promised to appoint an A-G before the Inauguration, and with input from the law enforcement community. But Heed was not on their list of recommended candidates. Still his supporters say he’s known for aggressive prosecution and defending victim’s rights. Senate President Tom Eaton says he was a good manager in Cheshire County.

EATON :13 He took the county attorney’s office that was kind of in shambles and turned it into a very effective prosecutorial team. And everybody was very please to come to work.

Everyone agrees that Heed is energetic – a trait he shares with Benson. The Governor said that helped him choose from three well-qualified finalists.

BENSON :13 Experience is clearly one of factors, but so is attitude, chemistry, outlook. Those all play into equation.

Benson said he made his final decision only this morning. And he’ll work closely with the future Attorney General to clear out the 650 lawsuits against the state.

Three Executive Councilors have said they would back Heed, ensuring his confirmation. But Executive Councilor Ruth Griffin says he’ll have to answer her questions before he gets her vote.

GRIFFIN :19 He should have been talking to the Councilors and not the press. He just got nominated didn’t he. My concerns are to find someone to get in there with a brand new broom and sweep the place clean.

The Executive Council is scheduled to meet next Wednesday to vote on Heed’s confirmation.

For NHPR News, I’m RMD.