Who needs reality TV when you’ve got the New Hampshire Federation of Republican Women?
The NHFRW is not traditionally known as a hotbed of political intrigue or personal infighting. Most Republicans have no idea who the state chapter’s president is and only hear about the organization when it’s time to raise money for candidates or volunteer for grassroots campaigning.
But all that changed when Elizabeth Girard took the reins.
Viewed by some as a much-needed source of youthful energy, many other NHFRW members say Girard has created more conflict than success. And that schism is making its way into Saturday’s elections for Republican National Committeewoman and assistant secretary at the state GOP Committee meeting.
Girard (UNH ’16) just finished her second term as president of the NHFRW, and she went out with a bang. As president of the organization — known for its tradition of fairness and impartiality in party primaries — she took the highly unusual step of endorsing former President Donald Trump from the stage of his UNH rally last month.
After endorsing Trump, Girard promptly resigned as president of the NHFRW, signed on as co-chair of the Trump 2024 campaign, and jumped in the committeewoman race.
Many of her fellow Granite State Republicans found Girard’s actions off-putting — so much so that her successor, incoming NHFRW president Christine Peter, felt the need to issue a “clarification,” insisting Girard had done nothing wrong.
“Since new leadership has been elected and sworn in, outgoing President Girard was not obligated to resign. Neither NFRW nor NHFRW requested a resignation. However, outgoing President Girard felt in the best interest of the membership; she would allow 1st Vice President Donni Hodgkins to finish out the remainder of her term.”
It’s not the performance current Committeewoman Juliana Bergeron was expecting from Girard.
Bergeron was an early supporter of Girard’s bid to replace her, and she was one of the first people to endorse Girard for the job.
Bergeron has since withdrawn that endorsement and is now backing Mary Jane Beauregard in the committeewoman race.
“One of the most important things for the NHFRW is to be neutral and welcome every candidate to New Hampshire,” Bergeron told NHJournal. “As committeewoman, I try to go to as many events as I can for all the candidates. I’ve had them in my home.”
Bergeron said welcoming all candidates isn’t just an NHFRW tradition or part of the organization’s bylaws; it’s also key to the state’s strategy of protecting the First in the Nation presidential primary. “It is the most important part of the job,” she said. “That’s why I can’t support Elizabeth. I don’t think she understands how important it is to remain neutral.”
Beauregard told NHJournal she’s not interested in political feuding, and she wishes Girard well, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s vote. “The committeewoman’s job is to bring people together, to get people on our side on things like the [First in the Nation] primary. That’s what I want to do.”
Several NHFRW members who spoke to NHJournal on background so they could speak freely were not as kind. While several said they appreciated the energy Girard brought to the job and her media savvy in promoting the organization, the drama –and self-aggrandizement — was too much.
“Have you seen the [NHFRW] website,” one NHFRW member asked. “It’s like an Elizabeth Girard glamour shot.”
Members like Sayra DeVito of the Seacoast Republican Women’s organization said Girard’s endorsement of Trump was a problem, not because of Trump, but because using the NHFRW position to make the endorsement gave the impression that the members were on board, too. “We have women backing Nikki, and DeSantis, and Vivek in our group, and she tried to speak on their behalf. She’s really fractured our members,” DeVito said.
Girard did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Several members are also asking about the “odd” decision of the NHFRW under the leadership of Girard ally Christine Peters to skip over Nashua chapter president Kimberly Allan in the race for state party assistant secretary. Instead, the group has endorsed Terry Reiber of Amherst despite the fact he’s an associate member only.
Not to mention, a man.
Reiber was endorsed by the NHFRW when he was running opposed. When Allan decided to enter the race, she thought her fellow members would at least re-open the endorsement now that there was a competitive race. Allan even sent an email to the NHFRW asking for them to consider her candidacy.
As of late Thursday, she had not received a reply.
Bergeron called the lack of support for a member “pretty unusual,” Bergeron said. “It’s the job of the federation to promote Republican women.”
DeVito called it “very odd. You have a woman, one who is a full member and a chapter president and who just won the Ruth Ward Award — she’s an exemplary Republican woman. And they endorsed an associate member?”
Allan told NHJournal that she respects the right of everyone to support the candidate of their choice and she’s working hard to earn each vote. But as a NHFRW member, the endorsement decision is disappointing,
“I feel like this is where the slogan ’empowered women empower women’ falls through the cracks.”
Multiple sources familiar with the state committee politics predict Beauregard will win the committeewoman race. And, they say, most of the reason will be Girard.
“There are real concerns she doesn’t have the right temperament for the job,” one NHFRW member said. “I think she thinks she’s going to be doing press conferences or something.”
Bergeron said for her, it came down to putting personal politics aside for the good of the party.
“When I was chair of the Cheshire County party, I understood it was my job to be neutral, and we invited every candidate to come. The most important part of the job is to save our primary. Picking sides in primaries doesn’t help. We’ve got to remain neutral.”