Granite Reports: As GOP split over Speaker’s election widens, Horn getting broad support for reelection bid

SATURDAY, DEC. 13: THE MELODRAMA CONTINUES. The New Hampshire Republican Party melodrama over Shawn Jasper’s rise to Speaker of the House with the support of a 159 Democrats is expected to be renewed on Monday night as the party executive committee meets privately to consider resolutions condemning his election.


As we reported on Dec. 5, state GOP Chair Jennifer Horn told the executive committee that at the meeting, she will entertain – though not personally propose – resolutions addressing the Speaker’s election, which overrode the Nov. 18 caucus vote in favor of Bill O’Brien. Horn wrote that she had been asked “to formally pass an Executive Committee resolution that makes it clear to our grassroots activists that the State Committee does not condone what happened on (Dec. 3).”


There could be a number of resolutions offered, but Merrimack County GOP Chairman Bryan Gould, a candidate for state party vice chair, on Friday confirmed what we had been hearing from sources.


“I can confirm,” he said, “that I have been working with some members of the executive committee on a resolution addressing the concerns of grassroots Republicans about the manner in which the Speaker was elected. It is still a work in progress, but there will be a resolution in some form.”


DUELING CAUCUSES. No date had been set as of yesterday by Bill O’Brien and his allies for their rescheduled caucus to elect a House Republican Leader. O’Brien now holds that unofficial title and as we first reported back on Dec. 8, expects to attend the Monday night NHGOP executive committee meeting in that capacity.


He has said, however, he does not want to remain in that position and will hand it off to the person elected by the caucus. Running so far are Reps. Steve Stepanek, Al Baldasaro and Carol McGuire.


Meanwhile, Jasper has scheduled an official caucus of House Republicans for this Wednesday, Dec. 17. Will the O’Brien backers show up?


Baldasaro told Granite Reports that he, for one, “might just stop in to hear what he has to say. But I won’t take any marching orders from the Speaker. My constituents want me to support open and transparent government.”


Another interesting twist may come on Thursday, when Jasper convenes a meeting of the House Rules Committee on Thursday to “accept suggested changes to House Rules and discuss proposed session deadlines.” Watch for a proposal to go before the committee to change the rules to mandate the Speaker to appoint the elected leader of the GOP caucus as the House Majority Leader, as well as the elected leader of the House Democrats as the Minority Leader.


If the rules committee rejects the idea, Baldasaro said, no matter. A proposal to amend the rules can be brought up on the House floor on the opening day of the session, Jan. 7.


Either way, the O’Brien group still apparently has no intention of recognizing Jasper-appointed Majority Leader Jack Flanagan as their leader.


AN EASY WIN? While the Republicans continue to battle, the Democrats expect to have a relatively calm meeting state committee meeting tomorrow.


As we reported, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will speak to the committee in Portsmouth, and the committee will elect a successor to serve the remaining 16 months of the Democratic National Committeeman term of former state Senator and former House Democratic Leader Peter Burling, who is resigning.


Bill Shaheen is viewed as favorite, by far, over Roger Tilton and Rep. Tim Smith.


According to Kathy Sullivan, the former party chair and current Democratic National Committeewoman, the vote for DNC members will be an open vote, not a secret ballot.


“It’s a decades old DNC rule, rooted in combating race based voting where few African Americans (were) elected to DNC,” she wrote on Twitter.


It’s apples and oranges, but still interesting, considering the criticism O’Brien and his allies took for trying to force an open vote for Speaker.


TESTERMAN BACKS HORN. Horn’s decision to seek a second term as chairman of the NHGOP was not unexpected, but one might expect that eventually, she will have a challenger.


No one has emerged, yet, but it’s logical to think that there are simply too many factions and cliques in the party at the moment to think that she will breeze to a second term by acclamation.


There is a major political wildfire underway right now in the aftermath of the Speaker’s election, won by Jasper in a vote that 75 to 80 percent Democratic, according to House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff.


Horn had a choice. One would have been to try to bring the O’Brien supporters around to support Jasper as the duly elected Speaker by the full House. But imagine a party chairman supporting an official elected by a 80 percent vote of the other party over someone chosen by the party caucus?


Instead, she stood by O’Brien and her approach was consistent with her insistence on supporting nominees after the September primary campaigns, her circulation of a “unity pledge” and her eventual success in getting all candidates to the party’s unity event several days after the primary.


She did take some heat during the primary campaign — most prominently from former U.S. Sen. Bob Smith, who accused the party under Horn’s leadership of colluding with the Scott Brown campaign to ensure he was the nominee.


One of Smith’s most prominent supporters was Karen Testerman, who initially ran for the Senate but then ended her campaign to solidify conservatives behind Smith.


Testerman told us Friday she was asked to run against Horn, but declined and is now endorsing her – joining Republican leaders from various ideologies within party – from Testerman herself and O’Brien on right to former Gov. John H. Sununu, Sen. Kelly Ayotte and state Senate President Chuck Morse from the “establishment.” Rep.-elect Frank Guinta added his endorsement late Friday.


Testerman said that while “no one is perfect,” and “mistakes were made,” Horn “has done a good job of bringing money and influence into the state. She has been successful at that.


“I’m not sure if it was her or the national Republican Party that decided that it was important to beef up efforts in New Hampshire, but it was done in a number of different avenues,” Testerman said, citing the national party itself, and also various conservative interest groups such as Carly Fiorina’s Unlocking Potential Project and Americans for Prosperity.


Testerman said that while Horn “takes the brunt of the accusations” about the party establishment picking sides in the primaries, “Senator Ayotte deserves some blame” for siding with Brown and Walt Havenstein prior to the Sept. 9 primary.


“She should have been neutral from the get-go,” Testerman said of Ayotte. “She should not have been involved in the primary. Those are things that Jennifer gets blamed for, but I don’t think she has total control of those situations.


“It’s important that we have continuity. We’ve not had that in the party, and her message has been for unity all along,” Testerman said.


NOT ALWAYS A FAN. Former Governor Sununu and O’Brien were the first out of the box backing Horn’s reelection. But it wasn’t always a rosy relationship between her and Sununu.


In 2010, Sununu opposed Horn when she first considered running for party chairman and then decided against it. Horn then backed Jack Kimball for chairman, while Sununu strongly favored Juliana Bergeron, the current Republican National Committeewoman.


Now, Sununu has, as one Republican put it, “come around” in his opinion of Horn and believes she has been a strong chairman.


BROWN ON BOARD. Scott Brown, in an interview Friday, told Granite Reports that Horn deserves to be reelected.


“Look at what she’s accomplished,” Brown said, “and she doesn’t get paid a penny. She was everywhere during the campaign and she had a real challenge of trying to unify the party after the primary. The results were that we had a massive swing in the House, we picked up a seat in the Senate and we flipped the Executive Council, and a lot of the other races were competitive.


“What more would you ask of someone who does the job for nothing, for the flag, really,” Brown said. “Not everyone may agree with her, but she at least gives them their day in the sun and the opportunity to get their message out.


“She’s better than me and many others when it comes to dealing with the different factions of the party,” he said, “And come the next election, if we don’t have unity, it will be a big problem.”


ACTIVE IN THE PRIMARY. Look for Brown to be active in the presidential primary campaign, but he said he will not endorse until much later in the process.


Brown said he plans to set up roundtable discussions between any candidate who reaches out to him and key activists and state leaders “so they can make presentations and make their case.


“When we get closer to the final, I’ll do an endorsement,” Brown said.


NO SURPRISE, BUT… No surprise here but Brown is already backing Ayotte for reelection, calling her “one of the brightest stars, if not the brightest star, in the Senate.


“It’s important to keep her,” he said, acknowledging that she could have a tough race in a presidential election year in New Hampshire.


RICK RUNNING AGAIN. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told the Washington Post this week he’s running for President again. The question is, will we see him in New Hampshire anytime soon?


A Santorum spokesman did not return our call and email on Friday. New Hampshire is not exactly Santorum Country. His brand of conservatism is more suited to Iowa and South Carolina.


That’s not to say he won’t show up here. And he does have supporters here remaining from his fourth place showing in the 2012 New Hampshire Primary.


But his top staff from 2012 is otherwise occupied. Mike Biundo, his former national campaign manager, is now a chief strategist for Sen. Rand Paul’s PAC, and his former deputy national political director, Nick Pappas is now state director of the youth-focused conservative activist group Generation Opportunity. Kristen Beaulieu, the 2012 Santorum political operations director, is now a program coordinator at Harvard.




_ Rand Paul, by the way, while busy in Washington and gearing up for a likely presidential run, continues to make calls to GOP activists in the Granite State.


_ The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, an independent PAC hoping to recruit the retired neurosurgeon and author, “has opened a 1,700-square-foot ‘Draft Ben Carson for President Victory Center’ in Manchester,” the Washington Times reported this week. “New Hampshire will be a key early proving ground for Dr. Carson should he answer the American people’s call for him to run for president,” said John Philip Sousa IV, national chairman for the Draft Committee.


(John DiStaso is news editor of the New Hampshire Journal and the most experienced political reporter/columnist in New Hampshire. He has been reporting on Granite State politics since 1982. Watch for updates of his Granite Reports column and of course separate stories on as news breaks. He can be reached at and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)






Author: John DiStaso

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