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Primary Source: Upper Valley Republican Looking to Lead N.H. GOP

  • Valley News political columnist and news editor John Gregg in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 20, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

A conservative radio talk-show host from Grantham is running to become the next chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

Keith Hanson, who hosts shows on New London-based WNTK and Lebanon-based WUVR, formally announced his candidacy earlier this month, pledging to “break from the status quo” in the state GOP party.

In his announcement, the 45-year-old Hanson said the 2020 elections are perceived by many as “do-or-die” for the party after it lost control of the Legislature in November. The four members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation are all Democrats, as well.

“Republicans both expect and deserve strong, bold, and decisive leadership that can deliver upon the promises expressed in both the party platform as well as by the individual candidates,” Hanson said in a written statement. “If we expect to retake our state and federal offices, the time for submission and surrender are over.”

Hanson also indicated that he feels the state GOP has suffered from a “chronic lack of adequate funding” and ineffective leadership because of poor branding and marketing of a message.

In a phone interview on Wednesday evening, Hanson, who last month was elected as chairman of Sullivan County Republicans, said Republicans want a party chair to “stand up to” political attacks from New Hampshire Democrats.

“They want a Trump as their party chair,” someone who is an outsider and will respond aggressively, Hanson said.

The party chair will be chosen in a Jan. 26 vote of GOP State Committee members. The other announced candidate thus far is former state Rep. Steve Stepanek, a businessman from Amherst who co-chaired Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in New Hampshire.

Lebanon Republican Karen Cervantes, the Grafton County Area 1 vice chair, said she is backing Hanson’s candidacy and noted a failed effort recently by some Trump supporters to have the New Hampshire Republican Party endorse the president before the state’s first-in-the-nation primary.

“I like the fact that (Hanson) would bring new ideas, new suggestions to the New Hampshire GOP. I’m very, very concerned about Steve because I don’t see that he could possibly remain neutral in 2020 when it comes to Trump,” she said.

Hanson, who is on the radio four hours each morning, said the job would not be that of a public elected official, and that station management had no concerns about him seeking the political post.

The winner will succeed GOP party Chairman Wayne MacDonald, who took the helm last June when then-chairwoman Jeanie Forrester, a former state senator who represented the Haverhill area, abruptly resigned from her party post.

New at the Helm

Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, announced committee assignments on Wednesday, and two Upper Valley Democrats were named as new committee chairs.

State Rep. Tim Briglin, D-Thetford, was named chairman of the House Energy and Technology Committee, and state Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford, was named chairwoman of the House Government Operations Committee.

Briglin, reached by phone as he drove home in his Chevy Bolt electric vehicle, said one major issue is rolling out more broadband connectivity and better cellphone coverage in Vermont. “I think it’s critical for the economic well-being of our state, and for attracting young people to our state,” Briglin said. “We’ve got to do better than we’ve been doing.”

His other big priority is energy systems and “how are we going to push for more renewable energy, both as an economic growth tool and for a healthier planet,” he said, noting that one focus would be weatherization.

He was more cautious about a carbon tax, saying he was uncertain there were enough votes in the House for such a measure to pass at the moment.

Copeland Hanzas said Government Operations has a broad scope of oversight, ranging from campaign finance and election law to public employee pension and benefits. Her committee is expected to hear soon from the secretary of state and state treasurer.

Briefly Noted

■U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is headed to New Hampshire on Saturday. She’ll hold a campaign organizing event in Manchester and a house party in Concord.

■Hedge fund billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer said on Wednesday he won’t run for president but will commit $40 million to his “Need to Impeach” campaign targeting Trump, including a town hall forum in New Hampshire later this month. Steyer bankrolled the NextGen America campaign that brought thousands of young voters to the polls in November in the Granite State.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.