CONCORD — With a stern warning to his fellow Republicans, longtime GOP activist and successful entrepreneur Stephen Stepanek of Amherst announced his bid for chairman of the state party at an event Monday in Concord.
“At this juncture the Republican Party doesn’t exist in New Hampshire as an organization,” he told the gathering of GOP faithful at Tandy’s on Eagle Square. “It has failed in fundraising and organization; and we need to completely revamp what’s going on here in New Hampshire.”
He alluded to decisive victories by Democrats two weeks ago to take majorities in the state House of Representatives and Senate.
“We’re not competitive in fundraising; we’re not competitive organizationally and we’re not competitive in messaging,” he said. “And let’s give credit where credit is due— the Democrats have done a darn good job of it.”
Stepanek said he has the experience and contacts to turn all that around, with a focus on fundraising and building grassroots organizations statewide.
“We need to start now. We’re already late for 2020,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of soul searching. I know there are other people considering running. If they do, I welcome the competition, but I think I am the person who can go out there and raise the money and I know what we need at the grassroots.”
Stepanek served five terms in the New Hampshire House, including as deputy majority leader and minority whip. He was a selectman in Amherst, and served two years as GOP chairman for Hillsborough County.
He cited the business-friendly climate in New Hampshire that enabled his success, and said he wants to make sure that “New Hampshire Advantage” is sustained. Stepanek founded and led a number of private companies with a focus on technology and commercial real estate.
“I’m always trying to give back to make sure the New Hampshire advantage is still available to people coming into the state,” he said.
Stepanek was among the first Republican activists in New Hampshire to support Donald Trump for President, and was named regional administrator of the General Services Administration in March. He resigned that post after a brief tenure, citing personal reasons.
Current party chair Wayne MacDonald declined to comment on Stepanek’s announcement.
The party chair will be selected by voting members at the January party convention. In addition to Stepanek and MacDonald, other possible contenders include political strategist Michael Biundo and former NHGOP vice chairman Matt Mayberry.
A good crowd of GOP lawmakers, both past and present, as well as party volunteers and activists turned out for Stepanek’s announcement at the Concord pub across the street from the State House.
“I’m humbled by the number of people who’ve come out to support me and I hope I’ll be able to earn all your support as we go forward with this race for state party chair,” he said.