CONCORD, N.H. >> A three-way leadership battle for New Hampshire House speaker is underway among Republicans even before voters decide which party will control the chamber next session.
Republican Speaker Shawn Jasper is facing challenges from Reps. Laurie Sanborn and Carol McGuire in his quest to lead the chamber for another term. The in-fighting is somewhat premature; the general election is Nov. 8 and Democrats have a history of winning control of the chamber in recent presidential years.
But the battle is exposing old riffs among House Republicans that date to 2014, when Jasper won the speakership over Republican Rep. Bill O'Brien by winning support from Democrats. Jasper's opponents charge he's not held strictly enough to the Republican platform, but he says he deserves another term should Republicans maintain control of the House.
"People who say we haven't been conservative enough are speaking to a false narrative," Jasper said at a press conference Tuesday.
As evidence, he and his backers point to bills to reduce business taxes, a budget that has now created a surplus and a bill to remove the licensing requirement for carrying hidden guns, which Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed. He promised that continuing to fight the state's opioid and heroin abuse crisis would be his top priority if re-elected.
For her part, McGuire said Republican infighting led the caucus to lose site of the "big picture" on issues such as school choice and the opioid crisis. McGuire is co-chair of the House Republican Alliance, a group that grades members on how conservative their voting records are.
"During the past two years, Republicans in the House were splintered, spending most of their time fighting amongst themselves," she said in a statement. "My goal is to unify the party and administer a smooth running House to accomplish our goals.
Sanborn announced her campaign for speakership in August, saying that Republicans aren't happy with Jasper's leadership.
"Republicans in the NH House and across the state have been disappointed with a number of policies the current leadership advocated for, which went against our caucus' agenda and platform," she said in a statement at the time.
On the Democratic side, House Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff has announced his intention to run for speaker.
Control of the House has boomeranged between Republicans and Democrats for the past decade or so. Republicans held it from 2002 to 2006, while Democrats led the chamber from 2006 to 2010. Since then, control has switched every two years.