Jasper says he wants another term as House speaker, fires back at critics

  • Jasper

  • Supporters of Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper applaud him after he announced his plans to seek re-election as Speaker Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

  • Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper listens as he is endorsed after announcing his plans to seek re-election to Speaker at a news conference Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

  • Speaker of the House Shawn Jasper announced his plans to seek re-election to Speaker at a news conference Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

Monitor staff
Published: 9/20/2016 12:59:45 PM

Republican Shawn Jasper officially announced Tuesday he will run for another term as House speaker, seeking to fend off the growing field of representatives looking to replace him.

Republicans won’t know whether they keep control of the 400-member chamber until after the November election. But two candidates already vying to unseat Jasper say his conservative credentials aren’t up to snuff.

Jasper fought back at a press conference in Concord on Tuesday, where he pointed to tax cuts and addiction treatment bills passed under his leadership.

“People who say we aren’t conservative enough are speaking to a false narrative,” said Jasper, an 11th-term representative from Hudson. “Look at the legislation we passed, from constitutional carry to business tax cuts.”

Jasper’s two-year term as speaker has been rocky, ever since he won the gavel in 2014 by defeating his own party’s nominee with support from House Democrats. The contentious contest divided House Republicans, some of whom turned their backs on Jasper and launched their own splinter caucus in an office down the street from the State House.

Two dozen Jasper supporters backed him at the press conference Tuesday, and several emphasized the Speaker’s love for the House, his work with Senate leadership and his efforts to unite the party.

“Shawn has heart and that’s the key to being a good speaker,” said House Majority Leader Dick Hinch of Merrimack. “He has made great strides to bring the caucus together from what we all know two years ago was a somewhat fractured caucus.”

Not all Republican representatives see it that way.

Bedford Rep. Laurie Sanborn, who announced her campaign for speaker in August, said the House has been managed through a “top-down” style under Jasper without input from other members.

“Republicans in the N.H. House and across the state have been disappointed with a number of policies the current leadership advocated for, which went against our caucus’ agenda and platform,” she wrote in a statement.

Epsom Rep. Carol McGuire entered the race last weekend and criticized Jasper’s leadership as “divisive.”

“My goal is to unify the party and administer a smooth running House to accomplish our goals,” said McGuire, who moved to New Hampshire in 2005 as part of the Free State Project. “There were too many instances, from school choice to our response to the opioid crisis, where Republicans fought among themselves over details while losing sight of the bigger picture.”

Jasper hit back at his rivals Tuesday, accusing Sanborn and McGuire of voting against House committee recommendations on legislation.

“That tells you a totally different narrative than what they are trying to sell with their campaigns,” he said.

Jasper narrowly made it through his own primary contest last week. He was the target of several outside groups who funded attacks critical of his support for expanded Medicaid. Jasper also came under fire from members of his own party for spending money on mailers urging voters to send some Republican representatives back to Concord but not others.

On the Democratic side, Penacook Rep. Steve Shurtleff is only candidate who has officially announced a campaign for House speaker. The election for speaker will be held after the Nov. 8 general election.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)

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