DERRY — The state Republican Party on Saturday turned to a Trump loyalist and proven fundraiser to lead them when ex-state Rep. Steve Stepanek of Amherst was named the new chairman of the GOP State Committee.
Stepanek co-chaired President Trump’s New Hampshire campaign in 2016 and raised the money that helped make movement conservative Bill O’Brien of Mont Vernon Speaker of the House in 2010.
Stepanek also led a parade of speakers who vowed to go on the offensive against Democrats who stripped the GOP of every major office but Gov. Chris Sununu’s last November.
Stepanek said when Democrats took control of the State House for the first time in 2006, power went to the heads of its leaders and they committed political suicide.
“We are going to have a target-rich environment. The Democrats are in power but they can’t help themselves; they are going to do a lot of stupid things. They always do,” Stepanek said during his acceptance speech at the GOP’s annual meeting at Pinkerton Academy.
Stepanek handily defeated Sullivan County GOP chairman and Upper Valley radio talk show host Keith Hanson, 300-81.
Hanson didn’t mention Stepanek by name but referred to his party establishment ties.
“Are we going to continue to go with the status quo and expect the results not to be the same?” Hanson asked at the close of his speech.
Another former Republican legislator, Pam Tucker of Greenland, was the choice for vice chairman of the party, beating out former Cheshire County GOP Chair Kate Day of Keene. Tucker won by a 223-198 count.
Tucker served four terms in the NH House and was O’Brien’s deputy speaker.
“I am here for one reason and one reason only and that is to win elections,” Tucker said. “I know we have suffered problems in the past but we have great opportunities ahead of us.”
Sununu opened the meeting by vowing to take “complete responsibility” for the need to reinvigorate his party and build a financial and organizational machine that can compete with the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
“The days of doing it as we have done it are done,” said Sununu, who following his remarks presented a $5,000 check to the GOP State Committee. “We have to have a professional organization. We’ve been a volunteer organization but we have to ramp it up.”
In the 2018 election cycle, the Democrats outraised Republicans by more than a 3-1 margin.
GOP State Treasurer Rob Kasper of Walpole said when it came to the coffers of the city and town committees, the spread was even more lopsided.
“Were we outorganized? You bet we were,” Kasper said.
Both Stepanek and Sununu said they would crisscross the country to raise more money in advance of the 2020 election.
Outgoing Chairman Wayne MacDonald of Derry won widespread praise after having taken over the party just seven months ago, when Sununu’s hand-picked chairman, Jeanie Forrester, quit to take a job in municipal government.
At that time the party was flat broke and had more than $50,000 in outstanding bills.
MacDonald agreed the GOP must broaden its financial base.
“The notion that there is a “pot of gold” with New Hampshire’s name on it in some as yet undisclosed location is inaccurate,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald said the party should seriously consider paying the new chairman. Buckley makes a healthy, six-figure salary while heading the Democrats.
Two years ago, the GOP changed its bylaws to permit the chairman to be paid in the future. On Saturday the party changed the language from “salary” to “compensation” for the GOP chairman. Advocates said the move would allow a future chairman to work on commission, yielding more earnings as the party’s coffers increased.