Updated: Jennifer Horn unanimously reelected NHGOP chair, but post to remain unpaid

DERRY — After several contested and often contentious elections over the years, the Republican State Committee on Saturday quietly and without rancor reelected Jennifer Horn to serve another two years as its chairman.


The unanimous vote by the 333 members of the committee attending the annual meeting at Pinkerton Academy meant Horn, 50, of Nashua, became the first NHGOP chair to serve more than a single term since Steve Duprey, who was elected to his fourth term in 1999 and served until January 2001.


The Democratic State Committee has elected Raymond Buckley as its chair four times, and he is running for a fifth term in a party election to be held March 7.


Despite the strong vote of confidence in having Horn lead the party through the upcoming first-in-the-nation presidential primary campaign and a 2016 general election that will feature a reelection bid by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the party rejected a plan that would have paid her.


A proposed bylaw amendment that would have moved the NHGOP chair from a voluntary post to one in which the chair would be an “independent contractor” died when 213 members in attendance voted to table it. Under the plan, the chairman would have been paid 9 percent of gross proceeds raised directly by the party. Transfers from other national or local committees or leadership PACs would not have been included in determining the commission.


Horn had no comment on the rejection of the payment plan, but said after the meeting she would not have run for a second term if she felt she could not serve another two years as a volunteer.


She said she was “grateful” for the trust shown by her reelection, and, “Going forward we need to continue to build what we did for the past two years. We have important elections ahead of us and it’s important that the people of New Hampshire have strong, sensible Republican leadership. We’ll continue to focus on building our base, raising the money we need going forward. And we’re looking forward to getting into the fun of the presidential primary and welcoming all of the candidates to New Hampshire.


“What we love about New Hampshire is that everybody has a chance,” she said.


The party also elected other party officers, none of whom faced opposition — Vice Chairman – Bryan Gould; Treasurer- Rob Kasper; Assistant Treasurer- Eileen Smiglowski; Secretary- Jane Lane; Assistant Secretary- Dam Garthwaite; Area Vice Chair 1- Vicki Schwaegler; Area Vice Chair 2- Ray Tweedie; Area Vice Chair 3- Ray Chadwick; Area Vice Chair 4- Jane Johnson; Area Vice Chair 5- Alan Glassman.


Horn urged the party to build on what she called a successful 2014, in which Republicans won a U.S. House seat, took back control of the New Hampshire House and the Executive Council and extended its majority in the state Senate, while losing a U.S. Senate seat, the governor’s election and a U.S House seat.


She noted that in 2016, there will be a key U.S. Senate race in which Sen. Kelly Ayotte is seeking reelection, warning that New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley “will spend every minute of every day leveling false attacks at Kelly Ayotte. He’s decided to make Kelly Ayotte his project for the next two years.” She said she expected his “hand-picked candidate,” Gov. Maggie Hassan, to take on Ayotte.


The committee rejected four other proposed bylaw amendments, and adopted one.


The committee passed a bylaw change that would allow a state committee member who is suspended by the chairman essentially for supporting Democrats to appeal to the state party executive committee.


It tabled – thus killing – a proposed amendment that would have reduced the role of GOP delegates to solely electing state committee members rather than attend the state convention. The plan would have the state committee members assume the role of addressing the party platform at its convention. The plan also would have changed the date of the party convention from October to January and would have combined the convention with the annual meeting.


Several members spoke strongly against it, warning that such a plan would reduce grassroots participation in the party at a time when the party should be looking to expand.


The committee rejected a proposal that would have clarified that if someone is removed from a county or city committee with cause, he or she would also automatically be removed from the state committee.


The committee also failed to pass a bylaw amendment that addressed House Speaker Shawn Jasper’s challenge to House GOP caucus leader Bill O’Brien. The proposal stated that “no member of the State Committee shall publicly support, or organize any effort for the election of any opponent of the duly selected nominee of the Republican Party or any Republican legislative caucus for any elective office.”


It also tabled a proposed amendment that addressed the makeup of city and county committees.


Pay the chairman?


Sponsor Mark Vincent said the chairman payment proposal “represents a realization that the political landscape has changed and we must adapt in order to have a successful party operation.” But former party chairman Wayne MacDonald spoke out against it, saying, “Let us not become like the Democrats and make the state chair a career.”


NHDP financial records indicate that the party began paying its chairman, Buckley, after the party’s successful showing in the 2008 election.


Chris Wood suggested a full review by the local and county committees, and noted that there are other ways to pay a chairman, rather than on a commission. But Tammy Simmons said it is time for the party to decide, “Are we going to pay a full-time professional chairman who puts in 60 to 80 hours a week? Other states pay their full-time chairmen. This may not be the perfect proposal but let’s not make perfect the enemy of good.


“Times have changed. Our party has changed,” Simmons said. “Let’s start paying our chairman.”


Concord City GOP Chair Kerry Marsh, however, said a commission plan “leaves wiggle room” for a chairman to pressure the staff to calculate contributions to the party to the chairman’s advantage.


“I think we should pay the chairman but I think it should be a stipend,” Marsh said.


Committee member Jeff Chidester argued for continuing to have a volunteer chairman, saying, “We should not hold ourselves to the standard of Ray Buckley and the New Hampshire Democrat Party.”


Also, outgoing treasurer Robert Scott reported that the party received $3.3 million in total revenue during the 2014 midterm election year – “The greatest amount to the best of my memory in my 25 years” as a party official, he said – and ended the year with $192,000 in the bank.


The party presented outgoing vice chair Ken Merrifield with its Gov. Meldrim Thomson “Principle Above Politics” Award and also honored Scott for his long service.


(Our earlier report follows.)


DERRY — Jennifer Horn of Nashua was unanimously reelected chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party today. She was elected without opposition to lead the party through the New Hampshire Presidential Primary campaign and the 2016 general election.


The vote, a far cry from some prior contested — often divisive — contests, came at a meeting of the Republican State Committee at the Pinkerton Academy.  There were 333 members announced in attendance.


But the Republican State Committee chose not to pay Horn a commission. It rejected – choosing to table – a proposed bylaws amendment that would have begun paying a 9 percent commission based on party fundraising. Based on the past two years of fundraising, the chair would have earned $53,395 annually in each of the past two years.


Horn, 50, will be the first NHGOP chair to serve more than two terms since Steve Duprey, who served four terms ending in 2001.


The party also elected other party officers, including Bryan Gould as vice chair, none of whom faced opposition.

Author: John DiStaso

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