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NH House elects Chandler as new Speaker

By Dave Solomon
State House Bureau

November 30. 2017 2:33PM
Rep. Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, winks at Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry,on Thursday after he seconded his nomination for House Speaker. (Dave Lane/New Hampshire Union Leader)

CONCORD — Republican State Rep. Gene Chandler of Bartlett was elected House Speaker by the New Hampshire House of Representatives on Thursday, but not on the first ballot despite a Republican majority in the chamber.

Chandler, who has served as deputy speaker, won the majority support of the Republican caucus earlier this week, and his opponents for Speaker within the caucus urged their supporters to vote for Chandler.

All four of Chandlers’ challengers in the Republican caucus on Tuesday rose to nominate him for Speaker before the full House on Thursday.

Despite the plea for party unity, more than 20 held out on the first ballot, voting for deceased State Rep. Steve Vaillancourt or leaving their ballots blank.

Chandler fell two votes short of the 50 percent-plus one needed to win the position on the first ballot, but prevailed on the second ballot, when 181 votes were needed to win.

Chandler got 192 votes, Democratic nominee Steve Shurtleff received 152 votes, Libertarian nominee Jim McConnell had 11, and there were five scattered write-ins or blanks.

In the first round of voting, when 184 votes were needed to win, Chandler got 182 votes and Shurtleff got 153, with 22 write-ins or blanks, prompting speculation that Chandler would have to bargain with leaders of the conservative GOP Freedom Caucus to prevail.

Many of those 22 votes went to Chandler in the end, and he says he didn’t have to offer any concessions or promises to anyone.

“I made no promises on any side,” Chandler said after the second ballot.

State Rep. J.R. Hoell, R-Dunbarton, a leader of the Freedom Caucus who did not vote for Chandler on the first or second ballot, agreed that there were no quid pro quos offered during a 30-minute recess between votes.

“I am not aware of any concessions that were made,” he said after the final vote. “There was no horse-trading.”

Often at odds with House leadership under departing Speaker Shawn Jasper, Hoell said he is looking forward to working with Chandler.

“I think Gene will do a good job,” he said. “He knows how to work with people but he’s not vindictive. He knew I wasn’t supporting him and he is fine with that.”

Jasper’s term as Speaker would have continued to the end of the current legislative session in late 2018, but he was recruited by Gov. Chris Sununu to serve as Commissioner of Agriculture, and was confirmed recently by the Executive Council, setting the stage for Thursday’s vote.

House Clerk Paul Smith presided over the historic session. “You have a very unique situation today,” he said from the Speaker’s podium. “There has not been a resignation of a sitting Speaker of the House since 1955.”

Chandler was the only candidate in the Republican caucus to promise that, if elected, he would not seek the position again after the 2018 elections.


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Thank you, Sununu