Shurtleff, Cushing compete for House Speaker’s gavel
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Two longtime Democratic state lawmakers are competing to be the next speaker of the New Hampshire House now that their party has regained control of the chamber.
Democrats, who hold about a 65-person majority pending recounts after the Nov. 6 election, will meet Thursday to nominate a speaker candidate. In the running are state Rep. Steve Shurtleff, of Concord, and Rep. Renny Cushing, of Hampton.
Shurtleff, who is entering his eighth term in the House, served as majority leader when Democrats controlled the House for one term after the 2012 election, and has served as minority leader since Republicans took back control in 2014. He said he will continue to lead without telling his caucus how to vote, instead telling them to vote their conscience and represent their districts. He told WMUR-TV he wishes Cushing well, but believes he has the votes.
“Our caucus has been very united and very strong,” he said. “It’s been my practice not to whip my caucus or tell them how to vote, and that will continue.”
Cushing, who is starting his sixth term, said he respects Shurtleff but believes it is time for a change. Cushing, a longtime environmental activist who has championed repeal of the state’s death penalty, said if he wins, he would push to make the workings of the House more transparent. He proposes having all committee hearings and committee votes videotaped and made available online, and said he wants the House to be more inclusive.
“Mostly I want it to be a big tent,” he said Wednesday.
Cushing also said he’d like to see the House assert itself as a co-equal branch of the Legislature because he expects Republican Gov. Chris Sununu to reach out more to the 24-member Senate than the 400-member House.
“I’m not one who thinks that the House should collaborate in its own marginalization,” he said.
House Democrats will meet behind closed doors Thursday to hear from the candidates and vote.
Senate Democrats last week chose Manchester Sen. Donna Soucy as their nominee for Senate president. The full House and Senate will vote on leadership Dec. 5.
Democrats will now control both the House and Senate. Republicans had controlled the House since the 2014 election, while the GOP had a majority in the Senate since the 2010 election. This will be the first session in modern history, however, when Democrats will control both Legislative chambers with a Republican in the governor’s office.