House Speaker Shawn Jasper looks set to keep his gavel for the next two years. He won the support of his Republican caucus during Wednesday night's vote for Speaker for the upcoming legislative session.
But it wasn’t easy – it took two rounds of voting, with the last round putting him over the top by the slimmest of margins.
Going into Wednesday’s race for House Speaker – Shawn Jasper knew he faced an uphill battle.
Though he first won the Speaker’s post two years ago, he never mustered the support of the Republican Majority in doing so. For that race he had to rely on Democrats to cobble together a majority vote.
That move still rankles a lot of his GOP colleagues – who say Jasper often failed to stick to a conservative agenda as Speaker.
But despite vocal opposition, this time Jasper did manage to secure a Republican majority by just one vote.
“You put how I came into office and what we went through this was somewhat remarkable the fact that I was able to be re-nominated after everything that’s happened in the last two years," Jasper told reporters. "So I think the fact that I got a majority of the Republican Caucus with so many new people out there who don’t know me - that was a big win.”
It took two rounds of ballots for Jasper to claim victory. And with lawmakers tallying their votes by hand on paper, counting the ballots took some time.
But first each candidate had an opportunity to make a pitch to the GOP Caucus – Jasper touted his experience, saying he’ll be ready to lead on day one. Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford said she’ll unite the Caucus and make sure every voice is heard. Rep. Frank Sapareto of Derry described himself as an outsider who can get the job done.
And Rep. Carol McGuire of Epsom, who had been campaigning for the speakership for weeks - told members to back Sanborn just moments before the first round of voting.
After the first round, Jasper earned the most votes, but fell two shy of the number needed to win the race outright. That led to one final round of votes. In Jasper’s last pitch to members he ticked through what he considered Republican successes under his leadership. He also defended his support for continuing the state’s Medicaid Expansion program, which many GOP lawmakers hold against him.
“Today I directly addressed the issue of Medicaid Expansion because I knew that was an issue. I said that I believe throwing 50,000 people off of Medicaid during an election cycle, and we would have begun the process of doing that if we didn’t reauthorize, then we wouldn’t have won the House,” Jasper said.
But Jasper also called the program, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, “fiscally unsustainable” and said he looked forward to major changes from the federal level.
In the final round of votes, Jasper won 109 to 104.
Although Sanborn, who’s entering her fourth term, was hoping to take over the speaker’s gavel she said she won’t challenge Jasper when the full House, including Democrats, weighs in.
But she still has some reservations on whether Jasper can unite the Republican Caucus.
“Well I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and be very optimistic that he will lead Republicans in a way that is respectful and I hope we can return to our core values,” Sanborn said after her defeat.
Before the vote, Governor-Elect Chris Sununu, who took no side in the speaker’s race, urged Republicans to support the winner, whoever it might be.
“It’s not about the infighting, it’s not about political partisanship, it’s really just about getting to work and that’s what we have, we have a lot of work ahead of us, but I think we are all very excited to take on that challenge and get it done,” Sununu told reporters before leaving the State House.
And that’s exactly what Jasper asked of lawmakers before they exited the House Chamber Wednesday evening – urging them to "go make the next two years the greatest Republican years that we have seen in decades.”