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ASHINGTON — Frank Guinta, a former New Hampshire lawmaker who helped create an opioid crisis task force in Congress, has discussed serving as President Donald Trump’s “drug czar” with Trump’s team, according to several individuals familiar with the discussions.

Since the election, Guinta has spoken with top Trump aides about serving as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy — a position colloquially known as the nation’s “drug czar”—  multiple individuals, speaking on condition of anonymity, told STAT this week.

The ex-congressman, who lost his re-election race in November, hampered by a campaign finance scandal, made the opioid crisis a central focus in his most recent term. He helped found a task force working on the issue and advocated for the major opioid legislation that passed last year, as well as the accompanying funding for its programs.

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A Guinta spokesman declined to comment. The White House also declined to comment.

Guinta’s name has been circulating in Washington as a possible drug czar since Trump’s election. Another prominent candidate said to be in the mix is Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a top Trump ally who has pursued an anti-drug campaign in that office. Bondi has met with Trump since his election and is believed to be in line for a top administration position.

Other possibilities include Dr. Andrea Barthwell, who worked in the drug policy office in the George W. Bush White House and is also believed to be under consideration, according to an individual familiar with the discussions.

A Bondi spokesman did not respond to requests for comment, and an aide to Barthwell declined to comment.

Formerly a tough-on-crime mayor of Manchester, N.H., Guinta told STAT in an interview last year that he had come to view drug addiction as a public health problem as much as a law enforcement one. New Hampshire is among the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis, with one of the highest per-capita rates of overdose deaths.

“After the research that I’ve done and the people that I’ve talked to, both people who are addicted and people in the field, as well as law enforcement, I believe that addiction is an illness and we need to treat it as such,” Guinta said. “Once you have the facts, it’s very clear to you.”

If he were tapped to be drug czar, Guinta would bring a mentality to the issue that aligns with the president’s. Trump spoke during the campaign about the need to help people who are addicted, but also to crack down on drugs entering the country from Mexico. Guinta, in his interview with STAT, said he now considers addiction an illness that needs to be treated, but also believes more can be more to stop the supply of heroin and other opioids like fentanyl from entering the country.

Trump repeatedly pledged during the campaign to address the opioid crisis as president. More than 30,000 Americans died of opioid-related overdoses in 2015.

The epidemic will likely be the focal point for the next drug czar, whoever it is. Other contentious issues, such as marijuana legalization, also fall under the office’s domain.

The director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy is formally nominated by the president and must be confirmed by the Senate. Kemp Chester, who worked in the office under Obama, is currently serving as acting director.

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  • I live in NH. Guinta is an EX Congressman because he got caught mishandling funds. The good people of his district wisely refused to re-elect him.

    In short, he’ll fit right in with the rest of Trump’s picks. Another dismal, venal choice.

  • Frank Guinta is one of the most clueless drug warriors in New Hampshire’s recent political history. When the New Hampshire House passed a bill reducing marijuana penalties in 2008, Guinta (who was then mayor of Manchester) reacted by publicly calling for a legislator (one of 193 who voted in favor) to quit his job working for the Manchester school district. His record on drug policy in Congress suggests that he hasn’t learned a damned thing since the 1980’s.

    • I know a lot of folks who worked for the city of manchester during Guinta’s tenure as mayor….I have not heard a single positive thing about the guy.
      I have heard enough negative things to know, he has not been and will never be a good public servant.

  • Same old stuff from the govt. involving the plague of drugs. Another brick in the wall of a dysfunctional federal govt. is the proposed new “Drug Czar”.

  • Guinta is a man with a really dark soul…as mayor of Manchester, he didn’t do the hard work anyone who is mayor would have to do…such as understand the details of the city budget….he condemned special school programs for at-risk students because it was politically advantageous for him…he consistently demonstrated that he only cared about himself….a true narcissist.

    • Couldn’t disagree more. An outstanding Congressman who served with honor. He would be an excellent choice for Drug Czar. A leader in Congress on this issue. He would balance both perspectives and undoubtedly be effective in this position. A bad mistake by 1 CD voters last November

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