Chris Ager is a conservative who has proudly backed President Donald Trump and who represented the right wing of the party when he defeated moderate Steve Duprey for the Republican National Committeeman job in 2020. But if Granite State GOPers are expecting Trump-style political theater if he becomes state party chairman, Ager says they are going to be disappointed.
“My style is more diplomatic…in the role that I’m running for,” Ager said. “I’m not a candidate to represent the people. I’m representing the party and the party leaders and candidates.
“My job is diplomacy within the party, it’s getting resources in place, and it’s defending our people. That’s when I’ll be aggressive, when I’m defending our people from untrue attacks. And if someone comes after one of ours with a knife, you go back at them with a nuclear bomb.”
Ager made his comments during a wide-ranging conversation on the NHJournal podcast. He’s currently the only announced candidate in the state party chair race, while there are at least three Republicans — Don Bolduc, Christine Peters and Ryan Terrell — running for the vice chair job.
Gov. Chris Sununu is trying to change that math, working the phones to find a candidate to challenge Ager, who has been publicly critical of Sununu in the past. Asked about his criticisms of the governor, Ager again turned to diplomacy.
“I would say less ‘critical’ and more ‘giving feedback’ from what I’m hearing from my constituents as Republican National Committeeman and Hillsborough County chairman,” Ager said. “No personal attacks or insult at all. And I think our leaders have been very good at being able to listen to feedback.”
As for Sununu trying to recruit someone to run against him, Ager said it could be a plus.
“I actually think it helps me because I can work with anyone. Nobody’s going to own me. I’m not anybody’s person. I’m the party’s person.”
Ager repeatedly came back to the themes of moderation and cooperation during the interview.
“I think there’s a yearning in the public for some civility, and common sense approaches to getting things done,” Ager said, adding: “If we show people that Republicans can govern and do things that are positive for the people of New Hampshire, I think we’ll do well at the ballot box.”
One criticism of Granite State Republicans is that they picked more extreme and combative nominees in November for the three federal races, and all three alienated independents and lost badly. Asked about the “candidate quality” issue, Ager diplomatically declined to be specific, but he acknowledged the state party needs to be more involved in promoting candidates who had better odds of winning.
“I don’t support the laissez-faire approach [to picking GOP candidates]. It may be the principled approach, but a principled loser is still a loser. We’ve got to see if there’s a way to bridge that gap.”
And, Ager says, unity is absolutely essential to the party’s success.
“If we could get agree on a basic message and we all push and row in the same direction, I think that would benefit us all.”