UPDATE: Gov. Chris Sununu issued this statement Thursday afternoon coming out against changing Republican bylaws to permit party officers to endorse candidates in primaries (see topic below).

"Whether it's a primary for the New Hampshire House or the White House, the New Hampshire State Republican Committee must remain neutral in primaries," Sununu said. "After hard-fought primaries, the state party is the vehicle to unite Republicans, and that is hard to accomplish if they try and tilt the scales for any candidate."

Trump 2016 campaign backer Bruce Breton’s overt call to change New Hampshire Republican Party bylaws to let party officers pick sides in presidential primaries has drawn a strong protest from a top adviser to 2016 presidential candidate and outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich among others.

John Weaver has said it smacks of empire building on the part of Trump and would sully New Hampshire’s reputation for fairness.

Breton, a Windham businessman, has said the White House had no part in his personal view, though he did say many Trump supporters in the state have since applauded it.

Others like the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol said it would harm the integrity of the primary.

Steve Stepanek, the frontrunner to become the next chairman of the party, has vowed to stay neutral if he is elected chairman.

Breton had considered running for vice chairman at the January annual meeting only to learn if he took it he could not campaign overtly for Trump in 2019. That’s when he first tweeted on Nov. 28 that the party neutrality rule was “deeply flawed.”

“It is my strong belief that the New Hampshire GOP bylaws should be changed to reflect that the New Hampshire GOP will support an incumbent President,” Breton said Wednesday.

“It is a logical solution to what I see as a deeply flawed portion of the bylaws.”

The GOP will elect its officers and vote on all bylaw amendments at its Jan. 26 meeting at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.

This change takes a two-thirds vote. Breton has said he still intends to bring it up in January. Gov. Chris Sununu didn’t return our call for comment.

If support doesn’t come together, Breton could at any point choose to pass on January and try to make the change when the state party meets in convention next spring.

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Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, becomes the latest prominent Republican to climb aboard the bandwagon for ex-state lawmaker Stepanek’s bid to become the next chairman of the Republican State Committee.

“Steve is a real hard worker and has proven to be really good at fund-raising in the past so I think that will be an upgrade for us,” Bradley said.

“To me his personal relationship with the President (Trump co-chairman) can only help our party a great deal win back some of our losses in 2020.”

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The new government is being formed in Concord in its own image now that Democrats control both chambers at the State House.

Let’s start with the House of Representatives.

New House Speaker Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord, entering his eighth term, has been a loyal supporter of the party establishment but also is seen as someone who collects colleagues and followers from many camps.

His overwhelming victory over a popular legislator, Hampton state Rep. Renny Cushing, for his party’s nomination revealed a breadth of support across the spectrum.

And it shows in the moves he has made in assembling his leadership team.

Sure there were well-known veteran party regulars like seven-term Rep. Lucy Weber, D-Walpole, who becomes Shurtleff’s speaker pro tem, and four-term Rep. Mary Heath, D-Manchester, an assistant education commissioner who becomes the majority floor leader.

Heath’s sister, former Democratic Party chairman Kathy Sullivan, tweeted with pride at the pick and pointed out she’s the fourth member of the family to serve in the NH House but the first to be in the majority.

The three others in the family who were House members were mother, Mary, father, Henry, and uncle John.

Shurtleff’s pick of Heath also avoided a squabble for the chairmanship of the House Education Committee that she had sat on, as other Democrats are vying for it.

Then there are the less conventional but popular picks starting with four-term Rep. Karen Ebel, D-New London, as deputy speaker.

A former corporate bank lawyer, Ebel played a major role in fighting development of the Wild Goose boat access site on Lake Sunapee that Gov. Sununu abruptly brought a halt to last summer.

And Shurtleff’s majority leader is four-term Rep. Doug Ley, who’s managed to win in GOP-rich Jaffrey through a long career as instructor and administrator at Franklin Pierce University.

He appropriately reached back to reward as his chief of staff Eileen Kelly of Bradford, who has probably held every other role when Democrats were in power and were not. She’s also chairman of the Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

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New Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, could have put only Democrats in leadership roles on committees.

She didn’t.

She could have made sure all the newly elected Democratic senators who won Republican seats got committee chairmanships to give them more visibility as each one of them will no doubt face heavy challenges to keep those seats in 2020.

She didn’t do that either.

“Every member of the Senate has a unique personal and professional background, which will enhance the quality of legislation that is introduced this session,” Soucy said.

“The assignments were made in order to best make use of these experiences and each member’s passions and expertise.”

Soucy clearly chose experience and it looked like she also tried to give Republican senators all the assignments they had asked for.

It’s strange not seeing former Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, on the Senate Finance Committee.

Morse has either been the author of or the constant conservative presence on that panel for the past decade.

Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, was the obvious choice to chair Finance since he ran it the last time Democrats had control.

New Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, is the go-to guy as he’s number two on Finance, he will chair Senate Ways and Means and he’s vice chairman of both the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and Rules Committees.

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, was the one GOP senator to get a gavel. She’ll run the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee. Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, will hold the second leadership seat on the Senate Transportation Committee.

Sens. Melanie Levesque, D-Brookline, and Tom Sherman, D-Rye, are the new senators with their own chairmanships, Election Laws and Municipal Affairs and the Health and Human Services Committees.

But the other four new Democrats each got a seat on one of the most important panels, Finance, Ways and Means, Judiciary and Commerce.

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Last week it was Nashua; this week it’s Concord making plans to fill vacancies on its city council.

The voters will fill two Concord spots on March 3, a citywide seat Shurtleff has left to become speaker and a Ward 10 seat Republican Dan St. Hilaire has departed now that he’s been confirmed to serve on the New Hampshire Superior Court bench.

On Tuesday, Ward 4 Alderman Byron Champlin became the first to say he’ll be seeking the upgrade to a citywide seat.

St. Hilaire’s seat, coming from the east side of the city, will attract a fair amount of interest as well.

Candidates can file for those vacancies from Jan. 4-14.

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Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both D-NH, played leadership roles Wednesday as the Senate narrowly went on record, 50-49, against an Internal Revenue Service rule that would allow so-called “dark money” groups to keep private their donors.

Hassan was a co-sponsor of the resolution; Shaheen spoke it on the floor, lamenting the dramatic increase in outside money since the Citizens United decision.

“It creates an environment ripe for corruption and corrosive influence,” Shaheen said of the proposed IRS rule.

“This allows voters to believe their voices are less important than businesses with a big checkbook.”

The resolution limps over to the GOP-led House where it’s likely to go into the circular file, as Republican leaders will do with plenty of pending proposals once they shut down this lame-duck session.

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It’s all steady as she goes for Gov. Sununu, who confirmed his top staff are returning along with him for another two-year hitch.

Senior Adviser Paul Collins and Communications Director Ben Vihstadt returned from working on the 2018 campaign to their old posts.

Jayne Millerick remains chief of staff, D.J. Bettencourt the policy director, Mac Zellem the budget director, John Formella the legal counsel, David Mara the adviser on addiction and behavioral health and Jennifer Smith the director of citizens services.

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You may remember President Trump in his first two budgets had the knife out for the Northern Border Regional Commission.

We wrote about the many economic development, housing and infrastructure projects in the northern counties of the state that made this a pretty popular bipartisan initiative.

Well the compromise Farm Bill is on its way to the desk of Trump, who’s said he’ll sign it.

The fine print not only keeps the commission alive but would give it an $8 million boost in grants to $38 million.

The reform also adds Cheshire and Belknap Counties to parts of the state eligible to participate in the grants, which are now available to northern New England and upstate New York regions.

The change also will let grant holders use money to attract business from outside the country.

Obviously this means it could become part of a state’s bid to lure Canadian jobs into the U.S.

Shaheen and Hassan worked the Senate side on this, while U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, was one of the House conferees to sign the compromise. Outgoing Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, also D-NH, backs it too.

”I’ve long fought to strengthen this program and I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to increase funding for the NBRC and expand its reach so that more Granite State communities can benefit,” Kuster said.

One of the happier ones about all these developments has to be Harold Parker of Wolfeboro, the former Sununu aide who the U.S. Senate confirmed a few months back to be the commission’s co-chairman and full-time staff head.

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Conservative blogger and radio talk show host Erick Erickson on Wednesday went to bat for a homegrown New Hampshire candidate to be President Trump’s chief of staff.

“Not that anyone who will make the decision cares what I think, but I believe Corey Lewandowski (of Windham) is the best choice for White House chief of staff. It is time for the President to bring him in from the outside,” Erickson wrote.

Erickson said acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker would be a capable choice, but Lewandowski is the “street fighter” he needs now.

“But Lewandowski and President Trump already have a relationship. Lewandowski already knows how to talk to the President, advise the President, and run interference for the President,” Erickson concluded.

“It is not about whether you like Lewandowski or not. I’m not a huge fan. But I have no doubt at all that Lewandowski, and the President have a rapport with each other that is going to be very useful in the coming months.”

A Lewandowski pal, David Bossie, is getting more publicity and has been auditioning for it on Fox News lately. Trump’s deputy campaign manager’s New Hampshire credits include working as state field director for President George W. Bush’s winning campaign in 2004.

----------------------------------------------------------(For more Granite Status, go to www.unionleader.com.)

klandrigan@unionleader.com