Sen. Chuck Morse set to become N.H. Senate president as GOP caucus unites behind him

Last modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Salem Republican Sen. Chuck Morse is set to become president of the state Senate after all 13 GOP senators yesterday pledged to support him as successor to outgoing President Peter Bragdon.

The Senate will meet Tuesday so Bragdon, a Milford Republican, can step down and Morse, the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, can be formally elected.

“There’s going to be a smooth and seamless transition,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican.

Morse emerged from a caucus meeting yesterday and said he has unanimous support from Republicans, who hold a 13-11 majority in the Senate, to become president.

“I don’t think there was any more discussion than a family has around the dinner table about how they’re going to move forward,” Morse said. “I think that’s what most of the discussion was about, how people see the Senate working in the future, and I think that was all positive.”

Bragdon announced Aug. 16 he would step down as president, a job he’s held since the 2010 election, while remaining in the Senate. He took criticism this month over potential conflicts of interest after he was hired as the new executive director of the Local Government Center, which provides insurance to public employees and is locked in a long-running battle with state regulators.

Morse immediately announced he would seek to replace Bragdon, and had support from Bradley and other Republican senators. But Bragdon and Sen. Andy Sanborn of Bedford reportedly held out, sparking speculation given the GOP’s razor-thin majority in the chamber.

Morse said Bragdon called him yesterday morning and said he would vote for him next week. Sanborn said yesterday he would support Morse, too.

“Not once have I ever made a public statement that I was running for Senate president,” Sanborn said. “Do I have concerns about making sure that we operate in an open and transparent manner and everyone has the opportunity to be heard? Absolutely. But that’s what caucuses are all about. It gets people that ability to come together and have a frank conversation.”

Morse yesterday declined to speak about his leadership team, saying he first needs to be elected president.

The Senate Democrats plan to caucus today.

“Many of us have worked with Chuck Morse through the budget process and found him to be fair,” said Senate Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen, a Concord Democrat. “So we are hopeful that we will see his presidency be one of fairness in response to all people’s wishes.”

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