New Hampshire House sees 4-way speakership battle

  • The finished eagle on top of the State House dome.

Associated Press
Published: 11/14/2016 11:47:30 PM

The state’s House Republicans are embroiled in a four-way battle for the speakership after maintaining control of the chamber for another term.

Speaker Shawn Jasper is facing challenges from Reps. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford and Carol McGuire of Epsom, as well as Frank Sapareto of Derry, a returning lawmaker. The competition reflects some dissatisfaction among Republicans over Jasper’s leadership style and policy initiatives. He won the speakership in 2014 with the aid of Democrats, bucking his caucus’s choice of Rep. Bill O’Brien, a controversial former speaker, for the post.

The speaker helps set the House’s policy agenda and acts as the public face of the body in negotiations with the Senate and governor.

Jasper argues he deserves another term because voters handed Republicans a second consecutive term leading the House.

“I think people saw Republicans do know how to provide a responsible, responsive government,” he said.

But at least two of his challengers say the caucus has been too divided and Republicans need to come together behind better conservative values. A plan to renew Medicaid expansion passed under Jasper’s leadership, to the ire of many conservative members.

Republicans plan to caucus and choose a leader Nov. 30, and the full House returns to vote on a speaker Dec. 7.

McGuire, entering her fifth term, is campaigning on a policy agenda that includes resisting a further renewal of Medicaid expansion, fixing the public school funding formula and creating a stricter definition of who can vote in New Hampshire. As she makes her own pitch, McGuire said it’s just important to ensure Jasper doesn’t lock up the nomination in the very first vote.

“We’re counting noses to make sure Jasper doesn’t win on the first round,” she said.

Sanborn, for her part, is pitching herself as a fresh face of leadership Republicans proved they want in the election. She’s touting regular Republican principles of lowering taxes and creating a better business climate, but says her chief priority would be creating a sense of party unity and letting the policy process happen from “the bottom up.”

“I am the bridge. I am the uniter. I can bring Republicans back together,” she said.

Sapareto, meanwhile, says his time in both the House and Senate gives him a unique perspective. He worries that divisions between the two chambers could derail Republican progress, even though the party controls both the legislature and the governorship. The House and Senate doesn’t always see eye to eye, but Jasper and Senate President Chuck Morse worked well together this session.

“Now’s our chance,” Sapareto said of Republicans’ ability to prove to voters they can lead Concord.

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