On The Political Front: Jasper's Victory Still Stings For Some In GOP

Dec 8, 2014

NHPR’s Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers joins Morning Edition each Monday to talk about developments in New Hampshire Politics.

The implications of Shawn Jasper’s win over Bill O’Brien in the House Speaker election last week continue to emerge, don’t they?

Yes, and we are also beginning to learn a bit more of what we might expect from Jasper.  He pitched himself to colleagues as a leader who would abide by the traditions of the house, a Speaker who would let policies flow up from the committees, not down from the Speakers office. Jasper will announce committee leaders Wednesday. On Friday He’s named jack Flanagan of Brookline Majority leader. Kind of  a interesting pick.

Why is that an interesting pick?

Jack Flanagan could be seen as a guy picked to straddle house current schism. Unlike most in Shawn Jasper’s inner circle, Flanagan’s pretty new to the state house. He’s entering his third term.  He arrived in 2010, the class elected Bill O’Brien speaker. Flanagan also enjoys better relations – at least in theory -with that cohort of the caucus.  Another move that may still the waters, was Jasper naming Gene Chandler deputy speaker. Chandler, is of course a former speaker himself, who as you’ll  recall, was edged out by Bill O’Brien in the GOP voted on speaker nominations last month. Chandler’s served in Concord since 1982, and his broadly respected in the caucus.

If you look at the social media postings by house members who wanted Bill O’Brien after Jaspers win, there's talk of rebellion, calls for Jasper to resign, people question the legitimacy of his win…..

Well, this is the NH House and members do let you know what they think. And some do think, given that Jasper was elected with more Democratic than republican support, he shouldn’t be allowed to pick the house’s majority leader. Bill O’Brien and other republicans called meeting early this week for the GOP caucus to elect a majority leader. If this happens you can be sure they  won’t be picking Jack Flanagan. So before we are though we may see dueling majority leaders, which would be new. And to be clear House precedent does give the speaker the power to name leader. Last week Some O’Brien loyalists were predicting Jasper struggle finding enough Republicans to lead every committees – which Jasper has promised to do. I suspect he’ll pull it off without too much of a problem. 

Now beyond the fact that Jasper won the Speakership with the help of democrats, is there much merit to the claims we’ve been hearing from some republicans that Jasper ‘s GOP credentials are dubious?

I guess It depends on how much of a purist you want to be. Shawn Jasper has been elected 11 terms out of Hudson, which isn’t a place that sends liberals – even liberal republicans --to Concord. There are a some things Jasper’s critics on the right point to – votes against a few bills that aimed to loosen gun policies, Jasper’s opposition to a stringent voter ID proposal backed by Bill O’Brien in 2011 and support for more campaign finance disclosure by political groups. But through the years Jasper has also voted against to same-sex marriage, raising the minimum wage, banning smoking in restaurants, repealing the death penalty, against casinos. Before he won election as speaker he put a bill in  that seeks undo the law that will ban hand held cell phone use behind the wheel. So, pretty conservative, with a quirk or two.

Now, speaking of quirks, one thing about Jasper’s election is that since he wasn’t the  GOP caucus’s pick for speaker, he’s apparently going to be denied a seat on the state Republican party’s executive committee?

Yes, and that GOP party by-law was passed as a result of another, somewhat similar speakers election ten years ago,  when Doug Scamman won the gavel with democratic support. The GOP caucus had supported Mike Whalley that year. Judging by the early reaction, this year’s situation has angrier.  We’ll see it that fades when the house starts getting to work. If it doesn’t, the session days could get very long.