Horn elected as N.H. GOP chairwoman, pledges to take fight to Democrats

Last modified: 1/31/2013 9:55:42 AM
Jennifer Horn was elected yesterday as the chairwoman of New Hampshire’s Republican Party, taking charge of a GOP that saw heavy losses in last year’s election.

She pledged to take the fight to the Democrats over the next two years.

“I have spent the last eight years pushing back against every harebrained, big-government, big-spending, tax-it-if-you-see-it idea that the Democrats have brought to the table. . . . I am ready to go toe-to-toe with (Gov.) Maggie Hassan, (Speaker) Terie Norelli, (U.S. Rep.) Carol Shea-Porter and (U.S. Rep.) Ann McLane Kuster,” Horn said to cheers and applause. “And you know what? (New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman) Ray Buckley, bring it on! Because from now on, they don’t define us, we define them.”

Horn, of Nashua, defeated Andrew Hemingway of Bristol for the top job at the New Hampshire State Republican Committee’s annual meeting, held at Bedford High School. The vote total wasn’t announced, but outgoing chairman Wayne MacDonald said it was “reasonably close,” with Horn winning by 30 or 40 votes. Some 428 voting members attended the meeting.

Ahead of the vote, Hemingway told the audience of party activists that he could lead the GOP to victory in 2014, but also said he’d be happy to work with Horn in whatever capacity possible. And after the ballots were counted, he offered a motion to make Horn’s election unanimous.

“Every single member of our state party needs to know that victory begins today,” Hemingway said. “And when we walk from this place, may we walk as one united unit.”

Horn replaces MacDonald, who became party chairman in September 2011 after Jack Kimball, who was elected in January 2011, resigned as party leaders prepared to remove him over organizational and other issues.

Republicans took big losses in November, with Democrats regaining control of the state House, the Executive Council and both of the state’s U.S. House seats, retaining the governor’s office and gaining six seats in the state Senate, leaving Republicans with a 13-11 majority in the upper chamber.

The message throughout yesterday’s six-hour-plus meeting was one of unity. The party, GOP leaders said, must unite and redouble its efforts to win in 2014 and beyond, at the state and national levels.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to lose,” U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte told the crowd early in the day. “And I think everyone in here agrees that we cannot afford to lose any longer, because what’s at stake? When Republicans lose, New Hampshire loses. When Republicans lose, our country loses.”

State Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Bedford Republican, took aim at Hassan, a Democrat whose first term will be up at the 2014 election.

“Does anyone here want to see Maggie Hassan in office in 2014? Does anyone here want to support her tax-and-fee agenda?” Sanborn asked as the crowd shouted “no” after each question. “So I need your help, and we need to help each other. We need to recognize who our enemy is, because Maggie Hassan’s not our friend. Maggie Hassan is not a friend of the taxpayer. She’s not the friend of the small business community. She’s not the friend of people who believe in family values, personal freedom and personal responsibility.

“But we can only win if we come together,” he said.

Frank Guinta, who lost his 1st District congressional seat to Shea-Porter in November, said the party should focus on the Democrats, not any internal differences.

“As we choose and select our candidates to represent us against the Democratic Party, let’s remember: Those are the people that we need to replace. Those are the ideals that are not reflective of us and our party and our state,” Guinta said. “And the people that we decide to run for office again, from the Republican Party, are the solutions, are the hope and the promise of a better America.”

And for now, Senate President Peter Bragdon of Milford said, the GOP-held Senate will be “the firewall for the next two years” against Democratic efforts to repeal Republican accomplishments of the last two years, including the new voter ID requirement and the “stand-your-ground” self-defense law.

Horn, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2008 and 2010, announced her run for party chairwoman in November with endorsements from many of the state’s top GOP officials, including Ayotte, Bragdon, Guinta, outgoing 2nd District U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass, former House speaker Bill O’Brien, new House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, and Steve Duprey and Juliana Bergeron, both members of the Republican National Committee.

Hemingway, who ran Newt Gingrich’s state campaign ahead of last year’s presidential primary, garnered endorsements from party activists and officials including Kimball, outgoing Vice Chairman Cliff Hurst, Sanborn and Rep. Pam Tucker of Greenland.

Andy Martin, a perennial presidential candidate, also announced he would run for chairman, but he wasn’t nominated from the floor yesterday.

Horn was formally nominated by O’Brien, who said Horn had been willing to stand up and defend the GOP-led Legislature of the last two years from what he described as a torrent of Democratic lies and attacks.

“She can unite our party behind conservative principles and work and make sure that ‘Taxing Maggie’ is not governor in 2014,” O’Brien said.

Tucker, who had been deputy speaker under O’Brien, nominated Hemingway, saying he had the skills and energy to lead the party to victory.

“On the morning after the November election, I woke up just as shocked as everyone in this room did. The Democrats, they told a better story and they drove voters out,” Tucker said. “Now, it’s our turn. The time is now to deliver our message in a fresh and innovative way.”

In addition to Horn, the party elected other officers yesterday: J.P. Marzullo of Deering as vice chairman, Robert Scott of Newport as treasurer, Eileen Smiglowski of Concord as assistant treasurer, Diane Bitter of Rye as secretary and Fran Wendelboe of New Hampton as assistant secretary.

The state committee members also voted on proposed changes to the party’s bylaws. Among other things, they voted overwhelmingly to bar any “membership fee or dues,” blowback from a short-lived proposal to require a $25 donation from annual-meeting attendees.

The members voted down an amendment that would have allowed the party’s executive committee to pay the party chair, which is a volunteer position

Buckley, the state Democratic Party chairman, issued a news release after yesterday’s vote to congratulate Horn, while also taunting the GOP by tallying up his party’s recent electoral successes.

“Picking up the pieces after a landslide election loss is a challenge that I do not envy,” Buckley said.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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