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November 27. 2012 7:46PM

GOP Chairman MacDonald to step aside, Jennifer Horn seeks post

MANCHESTER - Three weeks after voters handed New Hampshire Republicans a long list of defeats at the ballot box, it became clear Tuesday there will soon be a new leader at the top of the state party organization.

Chairman Wayne MacDonald told the New Hampshire Union Leader he will not seek a full term when the Republican State Committee elects officers at a Jan. 26 meeting.

Several hours later, conservative Nashua activist and former two-time congressional hopeful Jennifer Horn said she will run for the post "to unify Republicans and to lay the groundwork for a vibrant, robust party. We will unite behind our core principles of lower taxes, less spending, and personal freedom. And when the Democrats inevitably over-reach, we'll hold them accountable."

Her announcement came with a list of top state Republican supporters including U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, outgoing U.S. Reps. Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta, as well as Senate President Peter Bragdon, state Rep. and outgoing New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien, incoming House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, Republican National Committee members Steve Duprey and Juliana Bergeron, former party chairs, Jayne Millerick and Wayne Semprini and former candidate for governor Kevin Smith.

Ayotte, also of Nashua, said Horn is "an articulate voice for our party and will serve as a strong unifying leader."

MacDonald had been party vice chairman for more than eight years before becoming chairman in September 2011 after predecessor Jack Kimball resigned amid controversy.

"I know that some of the leaders of the party were looking for someone else," he said, adding, however, that he was "not at all" pressured to step aside.

"This was totally my decision and it was a tough call," MacDonald said.

Horn recently served as chairman of the NHGOP platform committee and was credited with successfully negotiating a compromise that kept in place conservative Republican principles but in more "user-friendly" language.

She currently chairs the conservative non-profit advocacy group "We the People: A First in the Nation Freedom Forum," which held a series of events featuring presidential candidates last year during the presidential primary campaign.

Horn is a former radio talk show host and newspaper columnist in Nashua and has been active in community organizations as well as efforts to support U.S. troops.

She was recently named the 2011 Nashua Area Federated Republican Women "Woman of the Year."

Horn has made two unsuccessful attempts to represent the 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House. As the party's nominee in 2008, she lost to then-incumbent Paul Hodes during a Democratic sweep.

In 2010, Horn lost to Bass in the Republican congressional primary. Bass went on to win the seat over Ann Kuster, and then lost it to Kuster three weeks ago.

Current party vice chair Cliff Hurst is also interested in running for party chair but has not yet made a final decision.

Some Republicans tried to recruit Ryan Williams, a former spokesman for the NHGOP and then for Mitt Romney's national campaign, as chairman.

But Williams said Tuesday he was "flattered by the calls I've received, but I have no interest in returning to the New Hampshire Republican State Committee."

He instead backed Horn, saying she "will make an outstanding chairman. She's accomplished and committed to conservative principles and I'm confident she will hire a qualified staff to go toe to toe with the New Hampshire Democratic Party."

Republican National Committeeman and former party chairman Steve Duprey said MacDonald "did a good job righting the ship" following the Kimball controversy.

"And I'm one of those who believe that when you win it's a team effort and when you lose, you lose as a team.

"It was a tough election cycle," said Duprey. "There were a lot of reasons for what happened but it wasn't because the party didn't work hard. Wayne did a good, solid job fundraising and he had a good relationship with the Republican National Committee."

But, Duprey noted, MacDonald has a full-time job working for the state "and he appreciates now how much time it takes to be chairman."

O'Brien said MacDonald showed a "willingness to step up under very difficult circumstances and provide leadership for the party.

"His steady hand allowed the state committee to move forward over the past year and have a smooth first-in-the-nation primary and to implement the national 'Victory' efforts," O'Brien said.

jdistaso@unionleader.com


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