Controversial Rep. Al Baldasaro says he’ll run - again - for speaker in ’18

  • State Rep. Al Baldasaro speaks during a town hall listening session at Manchester Community College in July. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor file

For the Monitor
Friday, December 15, 2017

Al Baldasaro – the New Hampshire Representative who once said Hillary Clinton should be shot for treason – said he was as surprised as anybody to be named an assistant majority leader in the House.

The outspoken and often controversial Republican from Londonderry told the Monitor on Thursday that he received “a phone call a couple of days ago asking me if I would accept the position. And I was kind of shocked. I didn’t expect it.”

Newly elected House Speaker Gene Chandler announced Wednesday the addition of more than a dozen conservative lawmakers to key leadership positions, including Baldasaro, as well as Reps. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford and Victoria Sullivan of Manchester as assistant majority leaders.

Baldasaro and Sanborn were among the five other Republican candidates running for speaker. Baldasaro dropped out after the first round of voting by the GOP caucus last month and backed Chandler. Sanborn was edged out by Chandler in the second round.

Baldasaro said he didn’t make any demands for a leadership role when he backed Chandler for speaker.

“I made it clear. I made no deals, nothing,” Baldasaro said. “I said, ‘I’m here for the team. I’m running for speaker as a team player.’ ”

Chandler promised to serve only for the remaining year in former speaker Shawn Jasper’s term. And Baldasaro said he’ll be gunning for the top spot once again.

“I will be running again for speaker in 2018,” he declared.

For Baldasaro, the new position is a return to leadership. He was part of then-Speaker Bill O’Brien’s leadership team at the beginning of the decade.

“This is nothing new for me,” he said.

The three new assistant majority leaders will join the four existing ones to divvy up responsibilities for overseeing the 24 House standing committees. Baldasaro said he didn’t know which panels he’d oversee.

Baldasaro said Chandler isn’t the most conservative Republican but praised him for his willingness to listen.

“That’s the great thing about Gene. He’ll listen to everybody,” Baldasaro said. “He’ll go with the caucus. ... So if the caucus supports repealing Medicaid expansion, he’s going to support us.”

Baldasaro said the state’s Medicaid expansion program, which currently sunsets at the end of next year, should not be extended.

“It’s a matter of time before it’s going to bankrupt the state, or we have to find a revenue source,” he said. “And that means either a sales tax or a payroll tax, and I won’t support that.”

New Hampshire was one of 32 states that expanded eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. More than 40,000 mostly low-income Granite Staters receive their health insurance through the program.

Asked what would happen to those people if the program is scrapped, Baldasaro said “keep in mind, we still have (traditional) Medicaid.”

Last month a commission made up of state lawmakers and stakeholders called for Medicaid expansion to be continued for at least another five years, but with major changes made to the program.

On another divisive issue, Baldasaro said he supports a Republican voting reform bill that includes a newly added amendment that would require people who vote in New Hampshire elections to be residents of the state, rather than the current looser definition of domiciled in the state.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu remains opposed to the amendment, which has been slammed by voting rights activists.

Baldasaro has claimed numerous times that he’s witnessed voter fraud in New Hampshire.

“I don’t know what’s going on with the governor. The governor’s a great guy. I don’t know if he’s misinformed on the bill or what,” Baldasaro said. “I’d like to talk to him personally and see.”

Minutes after Chandler announced his new leadership team, the New Hampshire Democratic Party criticized the Baldasaro’s appointment in an email to supporters.

“Republicans just appointed their most embarrassing lawmaker to a leadership position,” the email reads.

The Democrats then highlighted Baldasaro’s comments in the summer of 2016 that “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

Baldasaro, a U.S. Marine veteran who was a top New Hampshire surrogate for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and advised Trump on veterans affairs, made the comments at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Baldasaro was referring to Clinton’s conduct as Secretary of State during the 2012 terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which left America’s ambassador to Libya and three others dead.

The comments quickly went viral and made national headlines, as Baldasaro repeatedly stood by what he said and added that he was taken out of context.

“I stand by what I said because as an American I had an opinion in accordance with the Constitution and the U.S. code,” Baldasaro said Thursday. “Treason is in the Constitution. Put to death is in the Constitution.”

Baldasaro remains a major supporter of the president.

“I think he’s doing a great job,” Baldasaro said. “I think he’s the first president that I’ve seen in my time – and I’ve served five presidents – that kept his word on what he’s going to do.”

And Baldasaro was outspoken once again when asked about the calls by a handful of Democratic U.S. senators that Trump should resign over the past allegations of sexual misconduct made by multiple women.

“This is all political garbage,” Baldasaro fired back. “They couldn’t get him on Russia. They couldn’t get him on the other stuff there. Now they’re going after him on this. This is crazy. Respect the people’s vote. Let’s move on.”