SATURDAY, DEC. 20: MORE ENDORSEMENTS FOR HORN. State Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn has picked up the endorsements of 18 previously unannounced members of the NHGOP executive committee in her bid for reelection to the top post. They bring the total number of executive committee members backing her so far to 23 of the 36 members. See the full list below.
MUCH PRE-CHRISTMAS STIRRING IN THE HOUSE. There is not a lot of Christmas cheer among the Republicans in the New Hampshire House these days. Humbug abounds. But will the ill will calm down when the New Year is upon us and the session begins?
House Speaker Shawn Jasper thinks it will. He told Granite Reports on Friday that he is gradually gaining the respect and cooperation of much of the caucus and he expects that when the session begins, the focus will be on the issues.
“I’m in contact with members every day,” Jasper said. “More and more are reaching out to me and they are supportive. They tell me they like what they are seeing.”
But former Speaker Bill O’Brien believes he is the true leader of the Republicans in the House, not Jasper or Jasper-appointed Majority Leader Jack Flanagan. Jasper’s votes that put him in the Speaker’s chair came 75 to 80 percent from Democrats.
O’Brien says he will act accordingly – as the GOP leader — throughout the session.
Many noticed that when the latest House calendar was issued on Thursday evening, listing committee assignments for all members, O’Brien was not n any committees.
Was it a snub by Jasper?
No. O’Brien said it was his choice.
“The speaker’s office had contacted me about it, and I declined to take a committee because I intend to be fully involved in running the caucus as Republican Leader,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said there is much to do before the session begins, and then certainly after it is underway.
Although Jasper has appointed a leadership team, from a Majority Leader on down to a whip, deputy whip and other leaders, O’Brien said he now intends make his own appointments to leadership posts. And that should add to the upcoming “fun” in the House in 2015.
“We still have a number of positions to put in place in the leadership of the caucus and on the committee level,” O’Brien said. “That is going to take a lot of time and effort.”
He said he hopes the full House overturns Thursday’ 9-0 vote of its rules committee and approves a rules change that would mandate Jasper to name him the Majority Leader. Regardless, he said, “Obviously, there is going to be a need for the caucus to have floor leaders, debate leaders, liaisons to committees, whip positions and positions that will deal with mentoring programs for first-term members and good government programs. And we will have a legislative agenda, with members ensuring that positions are properly presented in committees. A lot of work has to be done.”
In other words, O’Brien does not intend to be Republican Leader in title only. He is going to be the Republican Leader, empowered, he believes, by the November vote naming him as the leader of the caucus.
O’Brien said 117 members appeared at the caucus he led on Tuesday and another 20 “said they would have liked to have been there but were unable. And the sentiment that has been expressed in all of these communications has been, ‘Let’s organize ourselves.’”
20 SECONDS. O’Brien and Jasper, in separate interviews, gave their views on a controversial rule change recommended by the Jasper-led House Rules Committee on Thursday. It would double the number of members required to “second” any motion for a roll call vote, from 10 to 20. The final vote will come by the full House on Jan. 7.
O’Brien and his supporters charge it’s an attempt by Jasper to scale back on transparency and open government, and try to “consolidate” his power. Jasper says it’s a practical attempt to bring the number of roll call votes back to a reasonable level.
O’Brien said, “It’s really unfortunate that in this day and age where the trend is toward greater transparency, that they would walk away from it and make it harder for people to know how their representatives are voting. This is the only way our constituents know how we are performing and show we are addressing their concerns and priorities.”
“When you have people in new positions and they are feeling heady, they tend to take missteps,” O’Brien said.
But Jasper said it is not an attempt to hide anything from the voters. Just the opposite, he said.
“This has been a pet peeve of mine for several terms now,” he said. He said he checked with the House Clerk’s Office, and “the number of roll call votes now compared to 10 years ago is far more.
“There are so many roll calls now that it has diluted the importance of them,” Jasper said. “We sometimes have three or four of them on the same issue, and two days later, we’re trying to figure out what it all means.
“We have had people who have literally roll called a lunch break,” Jasper said.
He said the House Journals, where records of House actions are recorded, have become bloated and costly. He could not say how much each roll call costs, but said he intends to ask the House Clerk to provide an accurate figure.
“There should be some discretion,” Jasper said. “When you have 100 roll calls, people can’t find the one they are specifically interested in,” which makes it more difficult for voters to find how their representatives have voted on key issues. And, he noted, 20 seconds for a roll call motion “is only 5 percent of the House.”
Jasper, by promoting the change, has opened himself to even more criticism from the O’Brien conservatives. But he is not concerned about that.
“The last thing I’m concerned about is criticism,” he said. “Everything I have done, I have opened myself up to criticism. I’m not the Speaker so I can be liked by everyone. I hope to be a Speaker who can make some real and productive changes. There will be little that I do that will be universally popular.”
BACKING HORN. Outgoing state Republican Party Vice Chair Ken Merrifield heads the list of 18 new state GOP executive committee endorsements for party chair Jennifer Horn’s reelection bid. The Republican State Committee will vote on a party officers on Jan. 10 at its annual meeting in Derry.
Also endorsing Horn this weekend are Robert Scott, party treasurer; Ray Chadwick, Hillsborough County chair, 2013-14; Mark Vincent, area vice chair and newly-elected Hillsborough County chair; Andrew Cernota, Nashua City chair; Kate Day, Cheshire County chair; Paul Simard, Grafton County Chair 2013-14; Bryan Gould, Merrimack County chair; Bill O’Connor, Strafford County chair; state Sen. Regina Birdsell, Rockingham County chair; Alan Glassman, Belknap County Chair and area vice chair; Tammy Simmons, Manchester City chair.
Also backing Horn are Lino Avellani, Carroll County chair; Rob Kasper, area vice chair; Vicki Schwagler, area vice chair; Molly Sanborn, New Hampshire Young Republicans chair; Eileen Smiglowski, state party assistant treasurer, and Jeff Newman, Federal Election Commission compliance officer.
Previously reported as backing Horn are committee members Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Senate President Chuck Morse, House Republican caucus winner Bill O’Brien, as well as state Republican National Committee members Steve Duprey and Juliana Bergeron.
“Jennifer engaged in a true grassroots effort to bring more people into the party visiting county committees and events throughout the state,” said Day. “There was an emphasis on the importance of building town committees to give more local activists a voice, creating a path for energy and involvement from the ground up. Party unity was continually encouraged.”
And Chadwick said, “During her term in office, I have seen Jennifer reach out to various groups and individuals to stress the importance of acting in a unified way for the purpose of winning elections, and have worked with her on that endeavor. To the extent that disunity remains a problem, it is not due to a lack of effort on her part.”
JEB’S GRANITE ROAD. While the Jeb Bush announcement that he will “actively explore” a run for President has the national and local political scenes buzzing, so far there is no evidence of any spontaneous activity on the former Florida governor’s behalf here.
Yes, it is only five days before Christmas, but one might expect, behind the scenes, phones to be buzzing and discussions and possibly even meetings taking place to look ahead to the early part of next year, when Bush ramps up an organization.
Obviously, Bush’s virtual entry into presidential contention hasn’t frightened anyone out at this point. But it does have observers here wondering if his move may be having the opposite effect – that is, prompting fledgling campaigns to bump up their organizing schedules.
Former Sen. Judd Gregg earlier this week in an interview with the New Hampshire Journal described Bush as a ‘”substantive frontrunner,” though not the “prohibitive frontrunner.”
While “establishment” New Hampshire Republicans are excited, our discussions with conservative and libertarian minded GOPers show far less enthusiasm.
“It bores me to tears to think that we might have another Clinton-Bush matchup,” said one activist. There’s also some tiring on the right about the penchant in the establishment GOP to promote the “next in line.” And while there is no clear “next in line” in this field, Bush is the closest – unless, of course, Mitt Romney gets involved, which, at this point, is highly unlikely.
Among conservatives, said one activist, “We are saying, ’We had McCain and Romney. Are we supposed to listen to these national Republicans who say that we should choose the most moderate Republican?’ There are many articulate conservatives in the mix.”
As a reminder, the most recent UNH Survey Center poll of the prospective GOP presidential field had Bush barely leading the pack, with 15 percent, to 12 percent for Chris Christie and 9 percent for Mike Huckabee.
_ Sen. Kelly Ayotte in the 114th Congress will remain on the four major committees on which she has served in the current Congress: Armed Services; Commerce, Science and Transportation; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Budget. She will also serve on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has not yet announced her committees for the upcoming Congress.
_ U.S. Rep.-elect Frank Guinta this week announced he has hired former South Hampton Police Chief Eddie Edwards onto his congressional staff as Director of Community Relations. Edwards recently lost a bid for the District 4 state Senate seat to Democratic incumbent David Watters and is also the former Director of the New Hampshire State Liquor Enforcement Division.
_ Remember Mark Bergman? The former congressional staff and campaign communications director for former U.S. Rep. (and U.S. Senate candidate) Paul Hodes this week was named chief spokesman for Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.
_ The conservative veterans advocacy group Concerned Veterans of America’s new New Hampshire chapter held its first annual dinner party last week, and presented awards to several veterans supporters, including WGIR radio talk show host Jack Heath, state Sens. Regina Birdsell, Sharon Carson, John Reagan and Jeanie Forrester, and state Rep. Al Baldasaro. Heath received the Paul Chevalier Veterans’ Advocacy Award,” named after the well-known veteran and advocate on veterans issues.
_ Merry Christmas! While this is our last Granite Reports column before Christmas, visit the New Hampshire Journal next week for continued breaking political news and analysis.
(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 NHJournal.com as news breaks. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)