- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - State House Republicans are nearly split down the middle in a battle for their leadership, a division that could weaken the party’s ability to unify behind legislation.

The division began several weeks ago when Republican Rep. Shawn Jasper ran for House Speaker against Rep. Bill O’Brien, the party’s chosen nominee. Jasper won largely with support from Democrats. On Tuesday, O’Brien convened a meeting of his supporters and roughly half the 239-member caucus showed up.

The group will attempt to change House rules to install O’Brien as the majority leader, a top post that sets the policy agenda.

Jasper had named Rep. Jack Flanagan as his majority leader, but O’Brien’s supporters are not recognizing his leadership. Flanagan will host a formal caucus Wednesday to begin discussing policy initiatives.

Many of O’Brien’s supporters are likely to attend the caucus, but it’s unclear whether the two groups will be able to unite behind a single set of policy initiatives.

The leadership divide could have a minimal effect on legislation as both groups of Republicans say they plan to push for a fiscally sound budget and conservative principals. Or, the two groups could advance those priorities in different ways, making it hard for Republicans to create a majority to pass legislation. Republicans hold 239 seats in the 400-member House.

Republican Rep. Carol McGuire said she thinks both groups can agree on broad goals but differences may come in the details.

“I think that some of the priorities are going to be the same,” she said.

Regardless of whether the rule change is approved, O’Brien plans to act as a majority leader, including by holding separate caucuses and putting forth a policy agenda.

“We’re going to have a leader of the Republican caucus, and that will be me,” O’Brien said.

The first session day is Jan. 7.


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