Sununu nominates Jasper for N.H. agriculture commissioner

Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper plans to pursue an open position as Commissioner of Agriculture, he announced Thursday, stunning lawmakers in both parties and setting off a scramble among potential suitors seeking to replace him.

The decision came after Gov. Chris Sununu approached the speaker urging him to take the role, which will be vacated in November after Commissioner Lorraine Merrill retires.

In a statement announcing the move, Jasper said he’s ready to take the mantle.

“I am hoping that I can continue the good work of Commissioner Lorraine Merrill and to serve the people of this great state by guiding the agriculture community into the future,” the Hudson Republican said.

He added: “It is not a position that I sought out, however it is the only position for which I would even consider stepping down as the Speaker of the House, a role that I have cherished.”

Jasper clarified that he will not resign as speaker unless and until he’s officially approved as Commissioner by the Executive Council.

The announcement spread quickly through the State House, fueling steady speculation on possible successors. Before the day was over, at least six House members – including House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff, a Democrat – had declared their candidacies for the speaker’s post should Jasper be confirmed.

In making a bid for the role, Jasper is beginning a process that is not necessarily a guarantee. His application will first be reviewed and approved by the Agricultural Advisory Board, whose recommendation will be presented to the Executive Council and governor for a final decision.

But legislative officials moved to set up a succession process nonetheless. In an email to House lawmakers Thursday, House Clerk Paul Smith scheduled party caucus sessions for Nov. 29 – during which parties will nominate a leader – and a full legislative session for a final vote on Nov. 30.

Jasper, a twelve-term representative who has served in all major leadership…

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