CONCORD — Newly elected Republican state representatives decided to stay the course, voting for Merrimack Rep. Dick Hinch as their minority leader for the 2019-2020 session of the state legislature, when Democrats will be in the majority.
It took two rounds of balloting in the closed-door session on Thursday for Hinch to emerge victorious.
Hinch served as majority leader in the past two sessions, first under Speaker Shawn Jasper and then under Speaker Gene Chandler.
The contest started with five names in the running until Charlestown Rep. Steve Smith, who’s led the Transportation Committee, withdrew from the race Wednesday.
That left four candidates: Hinch, Goffstown Rep. Barbara Griffin, Londonderry Rep. Al Baldasaro and Sanbornton Rep. Tim Lang, just elected to his second term.
Griffin has led the charge on Republican election law initiatives in the past two years; Baldasaro is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump; Lang as leader of the Beer Caucus has promoted collegiality.
After the first round of balloting among the 151 reps present, and 76 votes needed to win, Hinch got 68 votes; Baldasaro, 41; Griffin, 28; and Lang, 14. Lang withdrew from the race and urged his supporters to back Baldasaro.
Griffin withdrew without throwing her support to either of the two remaining candidates.
After the second round of voting, Hinch squeaked by with just enough votes to win, 77-68, after which Baldasaro moved the nomination be accepted by acclamation.
“I’m very appreciative of him for doing that,” said Hinch after the vote. “He and I are good friends. The Republican caucus would have been well served by any one of us.”
Leadership of the Legislature is now in place for the next session. Incumbent Republican Senate President Chuck Morse of Salem was chosen as Senate minority leader soon after the November election.
Manchester Democrat Donna Soucy will serve as Senate President, with Concord Democrat Dan Feltes serving as majority leader in the Senate.
Longtime Democratic minority leader in the House, Steve Shurtleff of Penacook, will be House Speaker.
“I made a commitment to the caucus that my doors are going to be wide open, that I am going to be reaching out to the broadest spectrum of the caucus for assistance on the leadership team,” said Hinch. “I believe the only way for us to unite as a party is to recognize that there are varying points of view and we need to be willing to listen from there and lead from there.”