Jasper fights off challengers, narrowly wins GOP caucus backing for 2nd term as House Speaker
CONCORD – It took two ballots, but Republican State House Speaker Shawn Jasper won the support of his GOP caucus in his bid to retain the gavel after narrowly edging out his top challenger.
Speaking to reporters after his Wednesday evening victory, which was a crucial step in his path towards a second term, Jasper said “all of our speaker elections in recent years have been very, very, narrow.”
And he wasn’t kidding. The longtime state representative from Hudson captured 109 votes on the second ballot, one more than was needed to secure victory. State Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford finished with 104 votes.
Jasper was also being challenged by state Rep. Carol McGuire of Epsom and former state lawmaker and representative-elect Frank Sapareto of Derry. Prior to the vote on the first ballot, McGuire ended her bid and asked her supporters to back Sanborn.
The GOP kept its large majority in the chamber in the election earlier this month. And with 214 of the 226 Republicans elected, 108 votes were needed to secure the backing of the House GOP caucus. On the first ballot, both Jasper and Sanborn fell short, with Jasper grabbing 106 votes and Sanborn 102 votes.
Sapareto, who won only three votes in the first ballot, dropped out and backed Jasper.
Jasper: ‘That was a big win’
Jasper won the speakership two years ago by bucking his party. After the GOP won back control of the chamber from the Democrats, former Speaker Bill O’Brien of Mont Vernon narrowly won the nomination of the GOP caucus. But on Organization Day, when the full House voted for speaker, Jasper jumped into the race and grabbed the gavel thanks to the backing of the Democrats as well as a smattering of Republicans.
Also working against Jasper in his re-election bid was his support and his crucial vote for Medicaid Expansion, which was opposed by many conservatives and passed the chamber mostly thanks to strong support from the Democratic caucus.
Asked about his narrow win, Jasper said “obviously the Medicaid Expansion vote hurt. But on the other hand, I don’t think there was anybody who two years ago thought I had a chance of being nominated by my party to be speaker a second term.”
“You put how I came in office and what we went through, this was somewhat remarkable. The fact that I was able to be re-nominated after everything that’s happened in the last two years. The fact that I got the majority of the Republican caucus with so many new people out there that don’t know me. That was a big win,” he added.
In what appeared to be a shot at O’Brien, who formed a shadow caucus after losing his bid two years ago for speaker and who didn’t run for re-election to his seat this year, Jasper said “the Republican Party hasn’t been united for years, going back before me. You can look back many terms.”
“We’re not going to have that caucus down the street, which will be a big help. Having that caucus down the street kept us apart because we were never all in the room at the same time during our caucus,” he continued.
Sanborn: ‘I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt’
Speaking with reporters minutes after Jasper, Sanborn said “obviously I’m a little disappointed that our team didn’t pull it through, but we had a great team effort. I had an amazing group of supporters surrounding us today and we came really close.”
“I do want to congratulate Speaker Jasper for his win and I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors,” she added.
During her challenge, Sanborn questioned Jasper’s conservative credentials and criticized him for what she said was his treatment of fellow Republicans in the chamber. And in what sounded like a warning to the speaker, Sanborn said “I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and I’m going to be very optimistic that he’s going to lead our Republicans in a way that is respectful and I hope that we can return to our core values.”
With the GOP holding a 226-174 margin over the Democrats in the chamber, Jasper will be the overwhelming favorite to retain his speakership when the full House votes for speaker on Organization Day (scheduled for Dec. 7), as long as his caucus remains united behind him. The Democrats nominated minority leader Steve Shurtleff.
Asked by NH1 News if he got an assurance from Sanborn and her supporters that they’ll back him on Organization Day, Jasper said “I have gotten an assurance from most people. Unfortunately there was no motion by Rep. Sanborn to make it unanimous.”
“I do not believe that there will be any drama on organization day. The people who I was most concerned about have come up to me, offered their congratulations and the fact that they’re looking forward to working with us going forward,” he added.
Sanborn said that “all of us who ran as speakers committed not to oppose whoever the Republican caucus nominee is and I stand by that.”
Asked why she didn’t move to make the vote for Jasper unanimous, she said “I think it just went by actually. Everyone was just so in the moment that it just didn’t come up.”
As for another possible bid for speaker in two years, Sanborn told NH1 News “we’ll worry about that a little bit later. That’s always a possibility. But now it’s time to get back to work.”
Sununu to GOP caucus: ‘We control our destiny’
Governor-elect Chris Sununu, the first Republican to win the Corner Office in 14 years, was also confident that there won’t be a repeat of the drama from two years ago.
“Whoever the caucus picks today will be the speaker of the House. I have full confidence of that,” Sununu told reporters prior to the voting.
Sununu addressed the GOP caucus before the roll call, preaching party unity and telling the lawmakers now that Republicans control both the legislative and executive branches of the state government, “we control our destiny.”
Sununu also told the caucus that style is as important as policy.
Asked by reporters about that comment, Sununu answered “it’s a great responsibility that we have that we do it and that we do it right. Style is as just as important as substance. Making sure we’re talking, we’re listening, not just to those of us inside the party, but those outside of politics, those in the grassroots.”
State Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford, who narrowly lost to Speaker Shawn Japser, speaks with reporters following the GOP caucus votes, on Nov. 30, 2016
Governor-elect Chris Sununu addresses the GOP caucus prior to the voting for Speaker, inside the state House of Representatives chamber, on Nov. 30, 2016