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May 2, 2016 1:49 PM

Steinhauser: NHGOP delays key vote for convention delegate committee assignments after protests from NH Trump campaign

NH1 News Political Director

CONCORD -- New Hampshire GOP Chair Jennifer Horn "rescheduled" a controversial vote on a proposed slate of delegate assignments to crucial committees at July's Republican National Convention on Monday, after push back from delegates backing Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump.

A source close to the state party told NH1 News that the proposed slate, which did not include any members from the Trump delegation, passed 12-11.

Reaction from the Trump campaign was widely varied, with New Hampshire chairman, state Rep. Steve Stepanek, telling NH1 News that Horn should resign due to her "sick obsession" with Trump and the campaign's national political director saying "we look forward to our working relationship with Jennifer."

Asked by NH1 News if she would step down, Horn said "of course not."

She called Stepanek's comments "disappointing" and said "we made an honest effort to try and include everybody" in the proposed slate of committee assignments.

The committee assignments for convention delegates are often arcane affairs that draw no media attention, but with the possibility that the GOP may hold its first contested convention in decades, such minor matters are taking on out sized importance. And this latest flare up between Horn and Trump's top supporters in New Hampshire is proof, with the developments grabbing national attention.

In her letter Monday afternoon to the state's delegates to the GOP convention in July in Cleveland, Horn wrote that "some delegates have expressed concerns about electronic voting, and I appreciate the questions that have been raised. In the interest of party unity, I am willing to reschedule the vote at an in person meeting in the near future. I have been in touch with senior representatives from every campaign and have expressed my desire to ensure that they are all comfortable with our process."

Horn went on to write that "as a result, I have decided to cancel the vote. In the interest of full transparency, we will hold a new vote at a delegates only meeting on Friday May 6, 2016 at 10:00am at the New Hampshire Republican Party HQ."

Rick Wiley, Trump's new national political director, quickly put out a statement saying "we appreciate Chairman Horn rescheduling the vote for committee assignments to the 2016 Republican National Committee Convention so it can occur in person. Transparency in these elections is important and we are grateful for Chairman Horn’s decision. We look forward to continuing our working relationship with Jennifer as Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee.”

Horn, Stepanek, each speak 1-on-1 with NH1 News

But it was a very different message from Stepanek, who was critical of the on-line vote, and extremely critical of Horn.

"This particular election was fraught with problems and irregularities and I’m glad that the powers to be were able to convince Chairman Horn to rescheduled the vote and do it in a way that its always been done in the state of New Hampshire," Stepanek told NH1 News.

"It would have set a horrible precedent," Stepanek added.

Asked about the proposed slate, Stepanek said it was "a real slap in the face to everybody who’s worked so hard for the Donald Trump campaign that not one single position allocated under her slate to a single Trump delegate, even though we had 11 out of the 23 delegates."

Bit he went much further, saying that "Jennifer Horn’s sick obsession with Donald Trump is detrimental for the Republican Party."

And he called on her to step down, telling NH1 News "I believe, as I’ve called on many times, that she Is not somebody who’s fair and impartial and I think her judgement is being clouded by her obsession with Donald Trump and I think she should step down as party chair person."

Stepanek and the other 10 Trump delegates voted for for their own slate of delegates, which consisted entirely of Trump delegates.

A couple of hours later Horn was interviewed at the NH1 News studios in Concord.

"We used electronic voting. We thought it would be more efficient. We thought it would be easier for people. Take up less of their time. We thought it was a good process. We did hear back from a few of the delegates that they were uncomfortable with it," Horn said. "We were happy to reschedule. If folks want to get together, that’s fine with us."

Horn said the proposed slate of delegates for committee assignments "came out of working conversations with all the national campaigns and it was just a group effort."

"We made an honest effort to try and include everybody. We even called a couple of Trump delegates specifically and didn’t get a response," she added. "There was a sincere intention to put together an inclusive slate for this."

"I’ve been in close contact with the leadership of Mr. Trump’s national campaign all day long. I just spoke to Mr. Wiley a few minutes ago. Mr. Stepanek is not expressing the position of the national campaign," Horn continued.

Regarding Stepanek's call for her to resign, Horn said "obviously I’m disappointed in the type of comments that Rep. Stepanek has been making today."

How this started

The controversy kicked off over the weekend, when NHGOP executive director Ross Barry sent an email to all 23 New Hampshire delegates to the GOP convention, stating that “as per RNC Rule 41, we are conducting a vote among delegates in order to assign delegates to serve at the 2016 RNC convention on the Committee on Permanent Organization, the Platform Committee, the Rules Committee and the Credentials Committee. We are also voting for Delegation Chairman, with responsibilities as outlined in RNC rules 2, 37 and 41.”

“Only official delegates may vote. Only official delegates may serve on these committees. A delegate may serve on only one committee. One man and one woman shall be assigned by vote to each committee. The Delegation Chair may also serve on one Convention Committee,” continued Ross in his email.

The email then listed a proposed “slate of candidates” but didn’t say who proposed the list.

Horn was listed as delegation chair, with former state Attorney General Tom Rath listed on the Platform Committee. Rath, a top GOP consultant, was a delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Horn and Gordon MacDonald were listed on the Permanent Organization Committee. MacDonald is a delegate for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who ended his bid for the White House in March, after losing to Trump in his home state’s primary.

Former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien and Melissa Stevens were listed on the Credentials Committee. O’Brien’s a delegate for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Stevens is a delegate for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who ended his bid for the GOP nomination in February.

Longtime RNC committeeman Steve Duprey was listed on the slate for the convention’s Rules Committee. So was the state’s other RNC member, committeewoman Juliana Bergeron.

Both Duprey and Bergeron are neutral, since state party rules say there can be no unpledged delegates. Duprey’s assigned to Kasich and Bergeron to Cruz. And Horn, who’s also neutral, is assigned to Bush.

With the Rules Committee holding jurisdiction over the primary calendar, it makes sense that Duprey, who’s served many years on the national party’s Rules Committee and who has long led efforts to keep New Hampshire first-in-the-nation, would be included in the convention’s Rules Committee.

But no Trump delegates were listed on the proposed slate.

Trump campaign: ‘How do you know who’s voting if it’s all done via email’

Trump won 35% of the vote in the nine candidate Republican field on the ballot in the February 9th primary. Trump finished first, 19 percentage points ahead of Kasich, the second place finisher. Trump as awarded 11 of the state’s 23 delegates to the convention in Cleveland.

“When you look at the fact that we have 11 out of the 23 delegates, and she (Jennifer Horn) did not put a single Trump person in a single position on any of the nine positions available, we should have had proportionally at least four out of the nine positions, based up on the percentage of delegates that we won,” Stepanek told NH1 News on Sunday.

“And yet not one single Trump person was appointed to a single position out of the nine positions that were open by Jennifer Horn. And on top of it she manipulated the system and appears to be breaking the rules of notification and the fact that this electronic vote has never been done and appears to be a violation of the rules,” he continued.

And Stepanek questioned "how do you know who’s voting if it’s all done via email."

Delegates had until Noon Monday to vote for the slate listed by the state party, or to write in their own picks for the positions on the crucial convention committees. I

Rath, who’s attending his ninth GOP convention, told NH1 News on Sunday that he thought Horn’s “done a very good job trying to piece this together.”

Bad blood between Trump campaign and Horn

The controversy between Horn and Trump's Granite State chairman isn’t the first time the two have tangled.

Horn was critical of Trump late last year, describing as “un-American” the GOP front runner’s call for a temporary “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States. At the time Stepanek and state Rep. Al Baldasaro, another top Trump supporter, called on Horn to resign from her post for criticizing Trump because they said she wasn’t being neutral in the presidential primary.

Asked by NH1 News on Friday if the past tensions with Trump’s Granite State supporters was water under the bridge, Horn said “you’d have to ask them if it’s still an issue. For me it’s never been an issue.”

This latest flare up also comes the eve of Indiana's presidential primary. The state is shaping up to be a last stand for Cruz, who’s hoping a victory in Indiana will prevent Trump from reaching 1,23 7 delegates, the number needed to clinch the nomination. The only shots Cruz and Kasich, the two remaining rivals to Trump, have to win the nomination is if there’s a contested convention that goes past a first ballot.

According to AP’s latest delegate count, Trump stands at 996, with Cruz at 565 and Kasich at 153. Fifty-seven delegates are up for grabs in Tuesday’s Indiana primary.

Former state House Speaker Bill O'Brien, a co-chair of the Cruz campaign in New Hampshire, told NH1 News that "every Trump delegate voted, but as is characteristic of the Trump campaign when votes go against them they begin to whine."

"They’ve lost this vote and in order to try and accommodate them they’re going to have another vote on May 6th, so obviously the state party is bending over backwards to try and accommodate them," added O'Brien, who's also a delegate to the convention.

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