Race for N.H. Speaker of the House getting crowded

  • Rep. Laurie Sanborn talks to members of the press following a closed-door Republican caucus to choose a nominee for House Speaker at the State House in Concord on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. Sanborn was in the running for the position but lost the vote to Deputy Speaker Rep. Gene Chandler. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor file

For the Monitor
Tuesday, June 05, 2018

The list of candidates running for speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives is growing by the day.

Republican Rep. Laurie Sanborn on Monday announced that she’s running for re-election and will make another bid for House Speaker, saying, “It’s time for real results and leadership.”

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Dick Hinch is expected to formally announce his campaign for the speakership.

The announcements by Hinch, Sanborn, and at least three other representatives who’ve tossed their hats into the ring come as the current speaker, Republican Gene Chandler, is stepping down at the end of the year. The flurry of activity hits at the start of the filing period for candidates to get on the ballot for the September primary and the November election, where Democrats are hoping to win back the House majority for the first time since they lost it four years ago.

“With Gene Chandler not in the mix, obviously this opens it up to everybody who has ever looked at the speaker’s gavel and has said, ‘I could make a good speaker,’ ” said Greg Moore, former House chief of staff.

“This really puts the opportunity for all these folks to use the next few weeks as a tool for recruiting. Ultimately, that’s where these races are often won is in the recruiting,” said Moore, state director for the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity.

Hinch, a Merrimack Republican who’s served in the House for a decade and as majority leader for the past 2½ years, is all but certain to formally launch his bid during an announcement Tuesday morning at the State House.

His announcement would come a day after Sanborn, a conservative from Bedford, said she’s running for a fifth two-year term in the House. She had flirted with a campaign to succeed her husband, Andy, as state senator in District 9, which stretches from Bedford west to the Monadnock region. Andy Sanborn is running for the GOP nomination in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.

“While the opportunity to represent Senate (District) 9 was attractive, I know my heart and mind remains committed to serving the ‘people’s House,’ ” Laurie Sanborn said.

“Many have asked for me to run for speaker again, and I am planning to do so,” she said. “Like so many other Republicans, I have been disappointed with the results of the New Hampshire House this year. I know I can bring principled, results-oriented, respectful and inclusive leadership to the table.”

Sanborn, a co-chair of the conservative House Republican Alliance and currently one of seven assistant majority leaders, is considered one of the leading lawmakers on the right. In the 2016 election for House speaker, she narrowly lost to Shawn Jasper by just five votes in the GOP caucus showdown.

Last year, after Jasper resigned from the House after being confirmed as New Hampshire’s agriculture commissioner, Sanborn ran again for speaker, losing to Chandler during the second ballot of voting by House Republicans. Chandler, who was deputy speaker at the time, vowed to fill out Jasper’s term but not seek a full term at the end of 2018.

Sanborn predicted that Republicans will continue to hold a majority in the House after the November election.

The GOP currently has a 214-170 majority over the Democrats in the chamber, with three Libertarian lawmakers and 13 vacancies.

The new House will convene a weeks after the election to choose the next speaker.

House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff – who represents Concord’s Ward 1 and Penacook – announced two weeks ago that he’ll run for speaker. It’s likely that Shurtleff, who has led the House Democrats since the 2014 election, will face a challenge from the progressive wing of his party.

While the Democratic battle may end up being a two- or three-candidate race, Republicans are in store for a larger field.

Republican Rep. Al Baldasaro told the Monitor on Monday that he plans to run for speaker.

“You look at my votes. I’ve been consistent for 12 years as a conservative,” the firebrand from Londonderry said. “Somebody has to stand up and take charge and run the Republican platform.”

Last week, Rep. Barbara Griffin of Goffstown announced her bid for speaker. Griffin, who has a leadership role and is chair of the House Election Law Committee, said in a statement “whether it’s my background as a municipal leader in Goffstown or my experience leading the Election Law Committee to several conservative victories, I will bring fair, effective, and organized leadership to the House.”

Another Goffstown Republican, Rep. John Burt, is also entering the race. The conservative lawmaker known for launching ‘hot dog day’ at the State House ran unsuccessfully for speaker last year.

Republican Rep. Frank Sapareto of Derry, who made failed bid for speaker in 2016, has also said he’s considering another bid.

Also mulling a campaign for speaker is conservative Republican Rep. David Bates of Windham.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and have had a number of people encourage me to do so,” Bates told the Monitor. “I have not ruled it out.”

And former state representative Jack Flanagan of Brookline said he’s thinking about a bid for speaker if he wins his old seat back in November.

Flanagan, Hinch’s predecessor as House Majority Leader, stepped down from his leadership role to unsuccessfully run for Congress in New Hampshire’s 2nd District in 2016.

“I’m running for the House and I’m contemplating running for speaker and I’d like to be able to help other Republicans win in their district,” Flanagan said.