Jasper tells NH1 News challengers for House Speaker say 'no to pretty much everything'
CONCORD – Shawn Jasper says his two challengers for Speaker of the House “don’t have the respect for the committee structure.”
And in a one-on-one interview with NH1 News, the longtime Republican state lawmaker from Hudson also pushed back against talk that he’s not conservative enough to lead the state House GOP caucus, saying that narrative “just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.”
But one of his challengers, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford, told NH1 News that Jasper’s “been beholden” to State House Democrats and “he has pushed their agenda in many cases.”
Jasper spoke with NH1 News minutes after formally announcing his bid on Tuesday for a second term as House speaker.
“I am here to announce that I am officially a candidate for Speaker,” the 11-term lawmakers announced as he stood in front of around two dozen supportive state representatives at a news conference at the Legislative Office Building.
Jasper touted that “we have brought civility back to the legislature where there had been a great deal of breakdown in that area.”
That seemed to be a jab at the previous GOP speaker, retiring state Rep. Bill O’Brien of Mont Vernon.
Even though O’Brien had the support of the majority of the GOP caucus following the 2014 elections, when the party won back the chamber, his confrontational style was enough to convince some Republicans to team up with the chambers Democrats to give Jasper the gavel.
Jasper stressed that it’s “important that “we pass sound legislation for the right reasons. Not for the political soundbite. Not to merely fulfill a bullet point. But to get it right and do the people’s work and not legislate for scores, not play for the scores. I am certainly looking for the support of all the members of the Republican caucus as we move forward.”
His right hand man, state House Majority Leader Dick Hinch said that Jasper “has made great strides to bring the caucus together from what we all know two years ago was a somewhat fractured caucus.”
“Shawn has heart and that’s the key to being a great Speaker,” he added.
Jasper predicted that Republicans would keep control of the chamber in November’s election, and that he would be re-elected as Speaker.
“We haven’t held on to the House for two terms in a row since 2002, 2004. I can’t imagine for a second that if in fact we are able to do that the Republicans in the House will reject the leadership that brought them there,” he said.
Jasper told NH1 News that “I very firmly believe that and our behavior has earned us the right in the eyes of the New Hampshire voters to be in control once again.”
Some on the right accuse Jasper of giving in on Medicaid expansion and other measured opposed by many caucus.
Asked about the knock that he’s not conservative enough, Jasper responded “that is one of the funniest things, people say that. I have been public service for 36 years and I have a very conservative record. Fiscally, one year I actually led charge and overturned House Bill 2 on the floor of the House. I stood with Gov. Benson when he vetoed the budget. So I don’t know where this narrative comes from.”
“You look at the things that we’ve done, just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny that I’m not conservative enough,” he added.
Describing Sanborn and his other challenger for the speakership, Carol McGuire of Epsom, Jasper said “clearly they have an agenda that just says no to pretty much everything.”
Asked if he thinks his two challengers share his respect for the institution, Jasper told NH1 News “well sadly I don’t’ really. They certainly don’t have the respect for the committee structure and for the votes out of committee and that’s very obvious by their votes. And I don’t know how you can possibly lead this House if you don’t have respect for the members in the committees doing their work.”
Jasper said he won’t seek Democratic support to retain the gavel.
“I am going to be nominated by the Republican caucus because that’s the right thing for the caucus to do and as I said I don’t believe for a minute that they will reject me as Speaker when we’re in the majority again. So I don’t even need to go beyond that,” he declared.
Asked if he’d run for minority leader if the GOP loses the majority in the chamber, Jasper said “at this point I don’t want to comment on that either because I believe that we will be in the majority and my thought process hasn’t gone there at this point. I’m focused on winning in November and that’s all I’m focused on.”
Sanborn: Jasper “beholden” to Democrats
Speaking with NH1 News on the front steps of the State House about two hours later, Sanborn took aim at Jasper, saying “this speaker received his speakership by getting the votes of all the Democrats and not many Republicans. So he’s been beholden to them ever since he was elected and he has pushed their agenda in many cases.”
And point to Jasper’s recent move to alter parts of the state party’s platform, which has angered some conservatives including state Senate President Chuck Morse, Sanborn said “I think he really does want to change the Republican platform. I’m not sure he agrees with us on core values. Most recently he submitted changes to the Republican platform.”
As for Jasper’s charge that his challenger don’t respect the chamber, she responded that “I respect the institution very much. I respect all members of the House. This Speaker has been somewhat disrespectful of conservative members of the House recently. And you know, sometimes the committee leaders don’t always get it right. They’re obviously the Speaker’s pick. And I was kicked off the leadership team because I disagreed with their efforts to significantly raise the gas tax, which is why I was kicked off Finance.”
Sanborn said leading up to November 8 it’s “all about getting Republicans elected to the New Hampshire House and keeping the majority that we have today. And then keeping it for the long haul. So I’ll be out there on the campaign trail working to earn my voters respect and vote as well as helping other Republican House members get elected or new candidates get elected.”
And if the GOP loses the majority, she told NH1 News “I would run for minority leader because I still think the job of uniting and rebuilding the Republican Party is important and something I can do better than anyone else.”
State Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford speaks with NH1 News on the front steps of the State House, on September 20, 2016