House Speaker Shawn Jasper targeted by mailers from right in crowded GOP primary

Monitor staff
Published: 9/12/2016 8:28:07 PM

House Speaker Shawn Jasper has been under fire from members of his own party and outside groups in the run-up to primary day.

Third-party groups are spending thousands of dollars to unseat the Hudson Republican, who became speaker in 2014 by defeating his own party’s nominee. Three organizations – one based in Texas and two in New Hampshire – have flooded Jasper’s district with roughly a dozen mailers critical of the Republican’s stances on the gas tax, government spending and health care.

“I am concerned,” said Jasper, who disputes the mailers messaging and is locked in a crowded primary race. The 11-term representative is one of 17 Republicans competing for 11 spots in Hillsborough County District 37 (Hudson and Pelham).

At the same time, some House Republicans are angry that Jasper’s own political committee is spending money in competitive GOP primaries and urging voters to send some representatives back to Concord but not others.

In the contested Merrimack Republican primary, the Shawn Jasper for New Hampshire Committee sent out mailers recommending a slate of eight representatives. Missing from the list were current state Reps. Josh Moore and Jeanine Notter, who are both seeking re-election.

“It sets a bad precedent for the current speaker to be getting involved in primaries within his own party,” said Rep. Tammy Simmons, a Manchester Republican. “For him to be excluding representatives who have good voting records and misleading the voters, that is just not good for any party to do something like that.”

Jasper said the pair weren’t included because Moore has been “vocally nasty against me,” and Notter wasn’t “aligned politically.” His committee has spent nearly $12,000 in primary mailers supporting roughly 45 GOP representatives, according to records filed with the secretary of state on Sept. 7. Jasper defended his decision to wade into GOP primaries, saying it’s appropriate to tell voters who he supports.

“We all have that right,” Jasper said. “It would be inappropriate for me to attack anybody.”

Jasper has become a lightening rod during his first term as speaker. To win the gavel, he pulled support from House Democrats and defeated GOP party pick Rep. Bill O’Brien. After the contentious vote, a faction of House Republicans turned their backs on Jasper, opting to instead align with O’Brien and his splinter caucus that opened up a dueling office in downtown Concord. O’Brien is not seeking re-election.

This year, Jasper drew pushback from some within his party when he backed a proposal to reauthorize expanded Medicaid for two more years. The health care program covers low-income adults who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, or about $15,900 a year. The reauthorization bill passed the GOP-controlled House and Senate, but it divided Republicans in the process. Some oppose the program and argue the work requirement for enrollees isn’t strong enough.

Republican Rep. JR Hoell of Dunbarton formed one of the political committees seeking to oust Jasper. It focuses on the speaker’s support for expanded Medicaid. Hoell registered “Citizens for Integrity” on Aug. 24 and has sent out three mailers and spent just under $5,000, according to reports filed with the secretary of state’s office.

One Monopoly-themed mailer accuses Jasper of committing treason and says: “Go directly home: Do not return to the State House.”

Donors to Citizens for Integrity are not public because Hoell missed the reporting deadline and hasn’t filed a list of contributors yet.

“I am late,” Hoell said, who characterized the donors as roughly a dozen in-state Republicans. “I would rather it be right, than on time and wrong.”

It’s not clear exactly how much money has been spent on Jasper’s race because the other two groups are not registered as political committees with the state and haven’t reported fundraising or expenditures.

The state chapter of Americans for Prosperity has similarly been canvassing Pelham and Hudson and criticizing Jasper’s support for expanded Medicaid, according to its Twitter account.

Convention of States Action out of Austin, Texas, is a nonprofit that urges legislators to call a convention of the states so delegates can propose constitutional amendments that “curb the abuses of the federal government,” according to its website. The group has sent out seven fliers targeting Jasper, he said. No one answered the phone number listed on the Convention of States Action website or the Facebook page or returned a call for comment.

In one of the group’s mailers Jasper is depicted as the grim reaper. He holds a scythe in his hand, while a tombstone behind him says his record includes a “lifetime of higher taxes and more spending,” he said. Jasper refutes the message. The budget passed last year reduced the business profits and business enterprise tax rates. “It’s such a joke,” Jasper said.

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