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GOP Leader in N.H.: Tea Party ‘Maturing’

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa gives the keynote speech at the Concord City and Merrimack County Republicans' Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner at the Grappone Center in Concord on Monday, February 17, 2014.  

ARIANA van den AKKER

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa gives the keynote speech at the Concord City and Merrimack County Republicans' Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner at the Grappone Center in Concord on Monday, February 17, 2014. ARIANA van den AKKER

Concord — In 2014 and beyond, New Hampshire’s Republicans must look for candidates who will finally say no, to growing the government and expanding presidential powers.

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, brought this message to more than 200 local Republicans last night in an effort to shape the debate around both the future of the country and of the Republican party.

“Hubris of the executive branch isn’t new, but freedom-loving, liberty-minded Americans — and there are no better than in New Hampshire — have to say it stops with this president,” Issa said.

In his first visit to New Hampshire this campaign cycle, and one of his largest ever, Issa spoke at the annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner of the Concord City and Merrimack County Republican Committees. As chairman of the House’s Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, Issa has waged hundreds of investigations into the Obama administration, including on high profile topics such as the Benghazi attacks, the IRS targeting of conservative non-profits and, most recently, the Obamacare website.

Issa said he does not plan to run for president, but instead wants to mold the conversation about what Republicans and the country need in candidates for state and national office. His anti-Obamacare message and calls for smaller government mirror the message that the state’s Republicans plan to use in this year’s gubernatorial and congressional races.

“I think that what people appreciate about Congressman Issa is that he’s been such a strong voice, trying to hold the administration accountable,” said Jennifer Horn, chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party. “There’s no question that what we’ve seen from Governor Hassan is just a total lack of leadership that unfortunately reflects the lack of leadership at the national level from the Democratic Party.”

Obama has failed to appropriately lead the economy and promote commerce, Issa told the crowd. But more importantly, he’s seized power that doesn’t belong to him and will continue to do so, as made clear by his State of the Union pledge to issue executive orders where possible. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has saddled Americans with new taxes while failing to solve the problem of ever-rising healthcare costs, Issa said, making it the “largest grab of control of the economy and your rights in American history.”

“The government is already too big, it already participates in too much of our lives,” Issa said to loud applause.

But Issa also took his own party to task, saying Republicans have failed to reduce the size of government, in part, because of the Tea Party’s unwillingness to compromise and a too strong focus on social issues. Tea Party members in Congress should work with all Republicans to find the most conservative solutions possible that can garner 218 votes — the number needed for passage — rather than holding out and giving the Democrats victories, Issa said.

“Theres some maturing going on and I believe in the next congress you’re going to see many of those (Tea Party) members come back to the fold,” he said.

With the first-in-the-nation primary, Issa said, New Hampshire voters have the opportunity to vet candidates and look for people who will, above all else, commit to reigning in the federal government

“I want it to be somebody who has pledged for smaller government that has worked well, not expansive government that promises to do more,” he said. “I need your help.”

Local Republican groups could soon have more members to help spread Issa’s message, as last night’s dinner was the annual event’s highest attendance ever, said Kerry Marsh, chairwoman of the Concord Republican City Committee. She encouraged everyone in the crowd to run for office and get the party’s message of fiscal responsibility and limited government out ahead of the 2014 election.

“We really believe unless we have good candidates that can carry that message — that are going to work hard, knock on doors, raise the funds — we have no chance in 2014,” she said.