Five-term state Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, confirmed Monday afternoon he is a candidate for House Republican Leader at a closed-door House GOP caucus to be held at later this month. The meeting had been scheduled for Tuesday morning but was postponed due to the forecast of inclement weather.
Reps. Steve Stepanek, R-Amherst, also confirmed that he is a candidate, and Carol McGuire, R-Epsom, is also running. Others could emerge in the coming days or could be nominated from the floor during the meeting.
The Republicans who backed caucus choice Bill O’Brien for speaker are planning to meet to choose their own leader. O’Brien is not seeking the post but until leader is chosen he will serve in that capacity. The group does not recognize Rep. Jack Flanagan, R-Brookline, the Majority Leader choice of new House Speaker Shawn Jasper.
Jasper was elected speaker on Dec. 3 by a coalition of Democrats and approximately 40 Republicans who had initially opposed O’Brien in the Nov. 18 caucus election and continued to oppose him. O’Brien narrowly won the Nov. 18 caucus over Gene Chandler, 116-112. Jasper was a top Chandler supporter and became a candidate the day before last Wednesday’s House Organization Day voting.
The Republican Leader to be chosen by caucus will get a spot on the NHGOP Executive Committee. A party bylaw requires that the House GOP leader who serves on the executive committee must have been chosen by a majority of the House GOP caucus. That bylaw disqualifies Jasper from serving on the executive committee. Until someone else is elected leader, O’Brien will hold the executive committee seat.
Baldasaro confirmed the New Hampshire Journal’s report on Friday that Republicans will attempt to pass a House rule at its first session on Jan. 7 that requires the speaker to appoint as Majority Leader the Republican lawmaker elected tomorrow. The rule would also require him to name the Democratic Leader elected by that caucus as Minority Leader, although Jasper formally named Rep. Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook, Minority Leader last week.
It would be up to the full House to adopt the rule change, and if it does, presumably Jasper would have to comply with the will of the caucus – and replace Flanagan with the new elected leader. If the House does not pass the rule, said Baldasaro, Flanagan would retain the title of Majority Leader but the Republican Leader elected tomorrow would be recognized by the GOP caucus as its true leader.
“The Republican caucus has spoken,” Baldasaro said,” and I think you need someone in a leadership position who can unite the caucus and move forward with Republican issues. There is no question in my mind that we are going to move forward and vote into place very good Republican legislation with or without the speaker’s support, depending on whether or not he wants to work with the caucus.”
Baldasaro said that while he hopes to be the Republican Leader, he also would be supportive of Stepanek or McGuire should either of them prevail.
“The Republican leader will offer the speaker an olive branch and offer to work with him,” said Baldasaro. “If he refuses, we’ll just ignore him and move forward, just as we have done through the House Republican Alliance,” a group of conservative lawmakers who have had significant clout in recent sessions.
“This whole thing will end if Shawn Jasper, who already stated he does not want to be involved with the caucus, respects the wishes of the caucus,” said Baldasaro. “Otherwise, we will ignore him. He will be irrelevant.”
“We’re not mad that Bill lost but what we’re mad about was the way it was done,” said Baldasaro. “Shawn Jasper had an opportunity to get elected in the caucus and he chose not to.”
The first hurdle for the caucus meeting is for organizers to be sure a quorum is present. Since there are 239 GOP House members, at least 120 must attend for the vote to be legitimate, he said. O’Brien and Stepanek said late Monday that based on commitments from members, that number should be easily met and surpassed.
Baldasaro said the impending weather has also forced postponement of an HRA meeting, which had been scheduled for tomorrow morning, prior to the caucus meeting. Baldasaro said the HRA will meet and choose new leadership. He said the three co-chairs of the HRA – himself, McGuire and former Deputy Speaker Pam Tucker – will step down from their positions with the alliance.
Stepanek, in announcing his candidacy, wrote in an email that he is beginning his fifth term as a House member and has served in many leadership capacities in the House and for the state and Hillsborough County GOP.
“I believe I have both the experience and knowledge both in the House and the State Party to best represent the interests and concerns of the House Republican Caucus on the Executive Board,” Stepanek wrote. “I also believe I can bring our caucus together so we can have one strong united voice to promote a Republican agenda of smaller government, less regulation and lower taxes in the House.