NHGOP Chair Jennifer Horn tells NH1 News 'it's time for me to move on'
MANCHESTER – New Hampshire GOP Chair Jennifer Horn says it was her decision not to seek a third term steering the state party.
“Oh, it was,” Horn said Thursday in an exclusive television interview with NH1 News soon after her announcement. “I’m very pleased with what we’ve accomplished. I think it’s time for me to move on.”
Horn’s move was anything but a surprise to political reporters and pundits who closely follow Granite State politics. In an interview with NH1 News on November 14, Horn seemed to hint towards her decision when she was asked if she would seek a third term.
“There’s still a lot of work ahead of us just in this calendar year alone. There’s a lot of work that’s got to be done for the party,” she answered, adding that “anything beyond that I would say probably, certainly by the holidays I’ll know what my plans are.”
Horn’s announcement on Thursday opens the door for Governor-elect Chris Sununu, who last month became the first Republican to win the Corner Office in 14 years, to support his own pick for party chair.
Asked if that was a factor in her move, Horn said “I am really proud of what Chris Sununu has accomplished and the fact that we have this Republican governor elect. Of course he should have his own team in place. Me deciding not to run has nothing to do with Chris. It’s about recognizing for myself that I’ve reached the end of what I’ve wanted to be able to accomplish here and it’s time to start and do something new.”
Sununu’s gubernatorial victory, along with the GOP keeping control of both houses of the legislature and the Executive Council, were the biggest wins during her two terms as chair.
“The fact that we, Republicans control every branch of government here in the state of New Hampshire is a great accomplishment,” she said.
The toughest defeat during her tenure also came in last month’s election.
“No question, Senator Ayotte’s loss was very difficult, for us as a party, but also for me personally. Sen. Ayotte was an outstanding U.S. Senator. She has served New Hampshire so well,” Horn shared.
As for other achievements during her four years steering the party, Horn said “I’m very proud of what we’ve done to grow our College Republicans, our Young Republicans. We have great young leaders who are coming forward like Joe Sweeney. Rep. Joe Sweeney, who chairs the Young Republicans now.”
Tension with Team Trump
NH1 News asked Horn about the perceived tension the past year between her and the leaders of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in New Hampshire.
“Part of my job as chairman is not just to bring the party together but also to promote our principles and our core values as a party, and on occasion I have felt that I have needed to go out there and express clearly what those values are. I hope that our next chairman will do the same thing,” she answered.
Asked if Trump or his Granite State team posed a threat to those principles and values, Horn answered “what I will say is that we are a party of inclusion, that we are a party of the Bill of Rights and that’s something that we can never forget, that’s who we are as a core. And I’d also say that I’ve been very encouraged since the election with the language and the message coming from our President-elect.”
Unlike the chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, the top job at the NHGOP doesn’t include a salary. As she gets ready to step down as state party leader, Horn made another bid for the position, going forward, to include pay.
“One of the things that we’ve done that I’m really proud of is that we’ve really rebuilt the party infrastructure. We have a professional political operation in play right now. And if we want that to grow and to continue to be successful, you have to be able to compensate the person who’s leading the charge on that,” said Horn, the NHGOP chair to be re-elected to a second term since now-RNC committeeman Steve Duprey in 2001.
In early 2015, the Republican State Committee tabled a plan that would have paid the chair nine percent of money raised by the party. Horn was running for re-election at the time and stayed neutral on the issue, but since then she has been a proponent of paying future chairs a salary.
Asked what she’s going to do next, Horn answered that “I’m going to be involved in the issues that are important to me. I honestly don’t know exactly what I’m going to do next but advancing those principles of quality and unlimited opportunity and limited government that our party has been built on I’m sure will have something to do with what I do next.”
Horn’s successor will be elected at a state party committee meeting scheduled for January 28. But in reality, whomever Sununu supports will be all but certain to win that contest.
By Thursday evening there was plenty of speculation in political circles over who will succeed Horn.
The two names that came up the most were NHGOP vice chairman Matt Mayberry of Dover, who’s said he’s interested in the job, and outgoing state Sen. Jeanie Forrester of Meredith. Forrester ran for the Republican gubernatorial nomination this year, coming in fourth in a multi-candidate primary that was won by Sununu. While Forrester was very critical of Sununu during the primary campaign, often attacking him, she supported him during the general election.
(Note: Mayberry works for Carlisle Capital in Portsmouth, which along with NH1 News is owned by Bill Binnie)