Paul Steinhauser: Horn tries to keep the peace in the NHGOP
CONCORD - Jennifer Horn's about to do something that hasn't been done in a decade and a half.
The chair of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee is expected to be re-elected Saturday to a second two-year term. Horn, who lives in Nashua, would become the first chair to serve multiple terms since Steve Dupery served four terms, ending in 2001.
Some 490 state committee members are eligible to vote at the NHGOP's annual meeting, which will be held at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.
"Its' been a really good two years for our party. We've been able to come together as a party, to unify. We've been able to raise the money that we need. We've been able to strengthen the structure and expand our ground game," Horn told NH1 in an interview Friday.
In November's midterm elections, Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and Rep. Annie Kuster all won re-election. Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter was defeated by GOP challenger Frank Guinta. But on the state level, the Republicans enjoy much more success, convincingly winning back control of the state House, widening their majority in the state Senate, and taking back control of the Executive Council.
As for the next two years, Horn said that "going forward I think if we can respect our differences and grow our operation based on values that we hold in common, we're going to see increased success."
"There's no question that Sen.(Kelly) Ayotte's seat is going to be at the top of our list of priorities, making sure that New Hampshire continues to have a responsible Republican representing them in Washington, but also as a party, we have a responsibility to welcome our presidential candidates as they come in as well and make sure that folks in New Hampshire have an opportunity to meet those candidates and hear from them."
The state party meeting comes just a few days after former GOP state House speaker Bill O'Brien and scores of his supporters announced that they were forming an alternative Republican caucus to rival the House leadership caucus of Speaker Shawn Jasper, a fellow Republican who defeated O'Brien for the speakership last month with the help of Democratic representatives.
Asked how she would referee the apparent civil war among state House Republicans, Horn said "I would reject the characterization that we have a civil war going on in our party. I think the Republicans in New Hampshire are much more in synch and agreement on a lot more than we are in disagreement on."
"Our party is much bigger than the 267 state reps that we have in the state house right now, and I'm confident going forward that all of our elected Republicans in the House are going to come together, advance strong Republican legislation and provide leadership that their neighbors have elected them to provide on their behalf," Horn added.
The spat in the state House comes as the next race for the White House heats up in New Hampshire, putting the Granite State once again firmly in the national political spotlight. Asked if the O'Brien-Jasper feud would put the parade of GOP White House hopefuls visiting New Hampshire in an awkward position, Horn said "no, I don't think so. I know that there have been some people talking about that."
"There are thousands of Republicans across our state who are going to be engaged in that primary process and I am confident that all of our Republican leaders are going to conduct themselves in a manner with dignity and with character and will offer a warm welcome to all of our presidential candidates as they come in," Horn continued.
One of the six bylaw amendments being voted on Saturday addresses the manner in which somebody is removed as a member of the state committee. While there's some speculation the proposal directed at Jasper, to retaliate for his move to challenge O'Brien, who had Republican Party backing for speaker, Horn says that's not the case.
"The sponsors (of that amendment) were in talks about for many months," Horn said. "Nothing on the table tomorrow is in direct response to anything that's happened in the last few months."
Another bylaw amendment calls for paying the state GOP chair a salary.
"I've said all along that I'm not going to express an opinion on that one because obviously I'm sitting in that role right now. I can say that it's a job that when done right requires an awful lot of time and an awful lot of commitment, but I'm running for re-election regardless," Horn said.
Unlike the Republicans, the state Democratic chair is a paid position. The Democrats have had just two chairs the past decade and a half: Kathy Sullivan and Ray Buckley.
"I think that consistency in leadership is part of what helps to make a party stronger and an operation more successful," Horn said. "I think the Democrats have seen the benefit of that."
"I think going forward a little bit of consistency is going to be good for our party," Horn added.