CONCORD – In the aftermath of an election in which the nationwide Republican wave only partially hit New Hampshire, state GOP leaders have been having an open discussion on Facebook about making key changes to the way the party operates.
Many of the changes being discussed on veteran activist Mike Biundo’s Facebook page have been in effect for many years at the New Hampshire Democratic Party, prompting one Democratic leader who read the discussion to say, “Imitation is the best form of flattery.”
The discussion on Facebook, begun last Saturday by Biundo, has drawn comments from a lost list of GOP activists and leaders, including chairman Jennifer Horn, former chairman and current Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey, former party vice chair J.P. Marzullo, GOP strategist James Basbas, and long-time activists Gregory Carson, Michael Dennehy, Harriet Cady and Siobhan Tautkus.
Among the many items discussed were:
_ Having a full-time, paid chairman, as the NHDP has had since 2007.
_ Having longevity in the chairman’s position. The NHDP has had two chairs since 1999, while the NHGOP has had nearly a dozen.
_ Electing state convention delegates in caucuses held across the state, as the Democrats have done since 1990, rather than on the party primary ballot.
_ Having a New Hampshire person as a party executive director, which the Democrats have consistently done.
_ Having senior elected GOP officials play a more “robust” role in party operations.
_ And moving the state primary election from September to May or June, a measure that has been proposed in the Legislature but has always been killed.
Biundo, who has been organizing campaigns in New Hampshire for about two decades and is now a senior adviser to Sen. Rand Paul’s likely presidential campaign, began the long thread on Facebook by posting, “In NH, it’s time to pay the NHGOP Chair and move the state primary from September to May or June.”
That prompted two days of replies – and replies to the replies.
Merrimack County GOP Chairman Bryan Gould suggested compiling “a package of proposed reforms” for consideration by the Republican State Committee at its annual meeting in January and, where necessary, to the Legislature.
Duprey wrote that he agreed with an earlier state primary as something that is “good for both parties.”
He also wrote, “It isn’t necessarily bad to have a paid chair. However, New Hampshire Republicans have not done a complete job of financially supporting the party in the last decade or so. Those who advocate such a move need to be the first to sign up to commit to raising the funds, before the start of the year, to fund salaries. The money we secure from the Republican national committee is not to be used for salaries for a chair but rather for data collection improvement and operations and ground game. Also, many donors refuse to contribute when their money is going to pay a state chair position. If you look at the Dems, most of their money is out of state contributors, so this is less of an issue for them perhaps.”
“In sum: there are pluses and minuses to having a paid state chair. I prefer the volunteer who can commit the time,” Duprey wrote, proposing a chairman who is willing to commit for four to six years and that high-ranking Republican officials become “play a more robust role” in the party.
Biundo replied, “Unfortunately it seems more and more our chair position has a high and volatile turnover rate. Every time we get a new chair, the learning curve starts all over again. In my opinion this causes a lack of consistent and focused grass roots cultivating and donor development. I would also be open to figuring out a way where the Executive Director was a more permanent fixture. Problem is then, you are strapping a chair with a legacy hire.
“We need to become more professional,” Biundo wrote. “The NH Dems are eating our lunch on the grassroots side.”
Biundo also wrote that there is “absolutely no consistency and little institutional knowledge in the NHGOP office. Chairs come and go and with them bring in a new set of staff. We have had some good executive directors and some good chairs. However, their time with us is almost always, short. If we don’t figure out a way to infuse some long term professionalism at these positions we are always going to struggle. I can count 12 different chairmen since I have been involved in politics and I don’t even want to venture on how many different executive directors we have had.
“If I were running the operations of Senator Ayotte or Frank Guinta and was facing the prospect of running in 2016 for reelection, a presidential year, I would be very concerned,” he wrote.
Marzullo proposed a paid chairman, writing, “We need a paid chair to open up the choices we have. Not everyone can Volunteer and (NHDP Chairman Raymond) Buckley is paid and has been productive, it is about consistent leadership whether you like him or not.”
Activist Kate Day praised Horn’s commitment to the party and the post, while Horn called the posts “an interesting conversation. Here is a thought to add to the list: A paid chair does not replace an ED. Two completely different sets of responsibilities.”