CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Visitors to the New Hampshire Statehouse hoping to see former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen’s portrait currently have to use their imaginations — the painting is blocked by a potted tree in the reception area outside the governor’s office.
Portraits of recent former governors are traditionally hung in the reception area. The current display includes Shaheen, a Democrat who became the first woman elected governor in 1996.
Judy Reardon, Shaheen’s former legal counsel, said she thought a friend was exaggerating about the tree when she heard about it last month so she checked it out in person on Sept. 15. A photo she posted on Facebook on Friday shows nearly the entire portrait obscured by greenery, with just bits of Shaheen’s red suit visible.
Reardon said Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s chief of staff told her the tree had to be in that specific spot, as did Shaheen’s portrait, because “they’re hung in chronological order.”
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But that logic doesn’t track. The portrait closest to Shaheen’s depicts Gov. Hugh Gallen, a Democrat who was elected in 1978 and was followed by three Republicans before Shaheen took office.
Shaheen went on to become the first American woman elected both governor and U.S. senator when she defeated Republican Sen. John E. Sununu, brother of the current governor.
“I don’t know if the motivation for this pettiness was the fact Jeanne Shaheen defeated John E. Sununu in the 2008 Senate election or if Chris Sununu is planning on challenging her in 2020 or if they simply don’t like portraits of women,” Reardon said. “But it’s petty and childish.”
Ben Vihstadt, a spokesman for the governor, said that corner of the reception area is where gifts and items of state significance are put on display.
“The White Birch tree, New Hampshire’s state tree, currently on temporary display will be moved,” he said but wouldn’t respond to further questions about when the tree would be relocated.
A spokeswoman for Shaheen did not respond to a request for comment.