The New Hampshire Republican State Committee must now begin the difficult task of rebuilding. If history is any guide, they will use this opportunity to install someone as Chair who has little practical experience, limited fundraising skill or capability, no nose for talented staff and precious little message discipline and a penchant for ideology over leadership. It hasn’t been a pretty run for the NH GOP over the last two decades. As the names of those considering a run for Chair surface, we see no obvious future John Sununus or Steve Dupreys on the list. That doesn’t mean these folks cannot prove to be surprising gems, however.
A couple of notes before unpacking the list. First, we believe Republicans should eschew ideological purity when choosing their next party leader. They should pick, instead, someone who has demonstrable leadership skills and a zest for fundraising. If he or she also happens to be conservative, so much the better. Second, If Sen. Kelly Ayotte decides to weigh in, which we think is imperative, on this and endorse a candidate, all other candidates for the position should back out and support that person, as well. It’s Sen. Ayotte’s party now, a contested fight will only hurt the GOP and there is plenty of work to go around that not everyone has to vie for Chair to make a difference. Sen. Ayotte’s time is now to define the NHGOP with her leadership selection. Her political survival now depends on how she handles this important decision. She should select a leader and enlist Party leaders like Mayor Ted Gatsas to ensure support for her selection.
The most intriguing idea we have heard is that a number of surviving Republicans in the legislature are privately advocating for Ryan Williams to take the job. Williams is the former Communications Director of the state GOP who, during his tenure, almost constantly ruined the Democrats’ days with his aggressive tactics. He carried his aggressive tactics over to the Romney campaign, where he earned a reputation for skillfully bracketing President Obama’s otherwise well-orchestrated events, even getting in Vice President Biden’s face over coal. Williams could not be reached for comment.
Now, to the names we’re hearing bandied about.
Kevin Smith – Smith ran an idea-rich, if unsuccessful, campaign for Governor in the primary and demonstrated professionalism and skill at organizing and raising money when he ran Cornerstone. However, sources tell us Smith is leaning very heavily against running for Chair.
Cliff Hurst – Hurst is a well-liked organizer with a penchant for really, really corny jokes. His fundraising skills are untested, though, and he appears to lack the gravitas required to command a party. And does Hurst have the killer instinct to wake up every morning thinking, “how will I make Maggie Hassan’s life a living hell today?”
Jennifer Horn – Horn is respected for her grassroots gravitas and willingness to step up to the plate for conservative causes. However, she was unable to raise significant funds, indeed piled up a lot of debt, for her 2010 Congressional bid, and may be too closely associated with the Bill O’Brien group that is taking a beating for the loss of the NH House.
Wayne MacDonald – MacDonald should walk away. He is in way over his depth as Chairman of the Party and this election cycle proves it. His skills would be better put to use in a helper role. Sources tell us that there is a lot of animosity toward MacDonald by his potentially violating NHGOP by-laws with his mail piece for Art Beaudry a Manchester firefighter. The mailing was very negative toward Mayor Ted Gatsas, the popular Manchester Mayor and was positive on Beaudry who when last checked, is NOT a Republican.
Juliana Bergeron – Bergeron is by all accounts nice, well-liked and competent. But she was unable to beat Jack Kimball during her last try, and considering how disastrous Kimball’s tenure as Chair was, that’s saying something. It’s unlikely she has the firepower to beat out some of the big names that will be competing. Further, the contentious run of Bergeron was made that way as the then Chairman John Sununu, uncharacteristic of any Chairman, roiled the faithful by endorsing Bergeron for the role and lobbying hard for her candidacy. Her name could only serve as a reminder of that bitter fight.
Bill Binnie – Binnie says he can raise money and Lord knows he’s willing to take the gloves off. But he has spent most of his time as a figure in New Hampshire politics attacking other Republicans and creating a lot of bad blood in the process. One of those he attacked most viciously is the aforementioned Sen. Kelly Ayotte. The two may have buried the hatchet, but we doubt they buried it that deeply. We would hardly view Binnie as a relationship builder which is a major role of the Chair.
Fran Wendelboe – Wendelboe is like the energizer bunny and works tirelessly on any project she is involved with. She’s also a representative of Party leadership at a time when the Party was stronger and better-organized. The downside: she’s been out of a leadership role for years, and her recent association with the laughable Donald Trump for President exploratory effort would be the subject of much snark.