Sununu and his wife, Catherine ("Kitty"), have three children: John, (Catherine) Grace, and Charlotte.
In 2002, Sununu ran for a United States Senate seat from New Hampshire. He defeated the Republican incumbent Bob Smith in the primary, then defeated Governor Jeanne Shaheen in the general election by a margin of 51%–46%.
On November 8, 2000, the Boston Globe noted Sununu's defeat of Democratic newcomer Martha Fuller Clark, noting that Sununu had "one of the House's most conservative voting records"—opposing abortion and increased minimum wages while favoring school vouchers and the death penalty.
In 2001, The New York Times described Sununu as a likely contender for the Senate seat then held by NH's Robert C. Smith, calling Sununu "a three-term conservative considered to be on the fast track in the House." The article noted that Sununu's backers included "some of the biggest Republican names in New Hampshire" as well as antitax advocate Grover Norquist.
According to a Washington Post study, Sununu has voted the Republican position 84% of the time, although he has broken with his party on prominent issues, joining Democrats in filibusters of the USA PATRIOT Act and the Bush Administration's 2003 energy bill. Sununu strongly supports less restricted access to firearms and voted against renewing the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban in in 2004. He strongly opposes amnesty for illegal aliens and voted against comprehensive immigration reform in July 2007. P. J. O'Rourke wrote a tribute to Sununu, calling him a philosopher and suggesting that he was the smartest man in the Senate. Sununu was one of only three senators whose voting record received a score of 100% from the fiscally conservative Club for Growth, which in February 2007 endorsed his bid for re-election.
In 2007, Sununu was the lead Republican co-sponsor of the Clean Air Planning Act of 2007, which sought to address air quality and climate change by establishing a schedule to reduce harmful emissions from power plants—in particular, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide—as well as decrease carbon dioxide emissions through a cap-and-trade system. The legislation also addressed mercury pollution, calling for a 90 percent reduction in emissions of the chemical by 2015. He also supported the bipartisan Clean Energy Stimulus Act of 2008 that provides tax incentives for the development of clean and renewable energy sources In 2006 Sununu sponsored the bipartisan New England Wilderness Act which added tens of thousand of acres of land to federally protected forests. Sununu opposed the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003, which would have also created a cap-and-trade program. His vote was criticized by the New Hampshire Democratic Party which claimed that he had acted "against reducing greenhouse gases". The New Hampshire Union Leader praised his decision, citing the Energy Information Agency's estimation that the legislation would cost the American economy $507 billion over 22 years.
Sununu has taken a few positions contrary to the Bush administration and the Republican leadership. Though he voted for the flag burning amendment, he voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment and he opposes restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba, and was one of only two Republicans to vote in favor of terminating funds for TV Martí, which broadcasts anti-Castro programming in Cuba. He was one of a small group of Republicans to vote in favor of banning loans to China for any nuclear projects, and in September 2005 he voted to disapprove a new rule set in place by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency EPA delisting coal and other energy sources from the Clean Air Act.
He also has become well known as one of the five Republican Senators who joined Democrats in a filibuster of the USA PATRIOT Act renewal conference report. This caused the Republican leadership to extend the original legislation until a compromise bill was forged.
In January 2006, at a hearing in front of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the Broadcast Flag, Sununu was one of the very few present to criticize the legislation, saying "In all cases [of previous technological advancements in the US], we didn't need to step in with a significant statutory government-regulated mandate on technology that consumers use to enjoy this material."
In October 2006, Sununu voted against a portion of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that would suspend the right of habeas corpus for non-citizen detainees. After voting in favor of the final bill, he defended his vote by telling reporters "The Constitution is not a suicide pact.
On March 14, 2007, Sununu became the first Republican senator to call for the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales after a controversy over U.S. Attorney firings. Sununu cited his anger with the mismanagement by Gonzales and the lack of trustworthiness by GOP Senators towards Gonzales.
In September 2008, Sununu became one of twenty senators (ten Democrats and ten Republicans) co-sponsoring a bipartisan energy bill, the New Energy Reform Act of 2008. The bill is offered as an alternative to the Democrats' energy bill, sponsored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Both bills propose to increase offshore drilling, while promoting conservation and alternative energy. The "Gang of Twenty" bill also lets coastal states participate in decisions and in revenue about drilling in the fifty-to-one-hundred-mile range off their coasts. It also differs from the Democrats' bill in allowing drilling off Florida's west coast, a proposal both Florida's senators have protested. To quote the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Nearly every potentially vulnerable Senate Republican, from Coleman to Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and John Sununu of New Hampshire, has signed on to the legislation.
Sununu's current term ends in January 2009 and he is running for re-election.
|John E. Sununu (R) (inc.)|
|Jeanne Shaheen (D)|
|Year||Democrat||Votes||Pct||Republican||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Party||Votes||Pct||3rd Party||Party||Votes||Pct|
|2002||207,478||46%||227,229||51%||Ken Blevens||Libertarian||9,835||2%||Bob Smith||Write-in||2,396||1%||*|
|1996||Joe Keefe||115,462||47%||123,939||50%||Gary A. Flanders||Libertarian||8,176||3%|