Republicans on Friday chose Acting Speaker Sherm Packard (R-Londonderry) to be the next Speaker of the NH House, filling a void left by the passing of Speaker Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack) from COVID-19.

On January 6, Convening Day, the House will formally vote to elect a new Speaker. Hinch was elected unanimously on December 2, Organization Day, before passing away suddenly only one week later.

The caucus elected Packard on the first ballot, with the challengers moving to make it unanimous following a decisive majority voted for the Acting Speaker. Helping Packard along was support from Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R-Auburn), who brought along many of the “Freedom Caucus” Representatives with him.

Following Hinch’s passing, Packard assumed the prime sponsor role on two of Hinch’s key priority issues – Education Freedom Accounts and lowering employer tax rates. Earlier this week, Packard told NHJournal he was running “to be permanent Speaker for the next two years to carry on [Hinch’s] legacy, to carry out his agenda.”

“[Hinch] was like a brother to me,” Packard told NHJournal.

“I’d like to thank the Republican caucus for putting their trust in me and electing me to be their nominee for Speaker of the New Hampshire House, and I would like to thank Rep. Al Baldasaro and Rep. Tim Lang for a respectful campaign,” Packard said in a prepared statement.

“I know I can speak for everyone when I say I never expected to be in this position. Losing Speaker Hinch has been difficult for all of us, and this is not my first choice of how I wanted this session to go. However, we must continue our work, we must continue his work, and I promise that I will continue to further Dick’s vision of how he would have run the House.”

“I have been a member of the House for 30 years, and I care deeply about this legislative body. This will be an unprecedented term for a number of reasons, and this role will require the experience and background to hit the ground running. I echo late Speaker Hinch, one of my best friends, in his only notice to members. ‘We have some significant challenges ahead of us. We need to get the people’s work done in the midst of a public health emergency. It won’t be easy, but I believe we can meet our goals and deadlines while putting health and safety first. Let’s buckle down. Let’s get to work. Let us lead by example. Let’s conquer these challenges together,'” said Packard.

In his 30 years in the House, Packard has served as Deputy Republican Leader, Deputy Speaker of the House, and in other leadership positions. Hinch named Packard his Deputy Speaker for this term just a week before the Speaker’s untimely passing. Since Hinch’s passing, Packard has taken on the heavy workload of a Speaker after Organization Day – only made heavier during a pandemic.

“Congratulations to Sherm Packard on his nomination to serve as Speaker by the House Republican Caucus,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “As Speaker, Sherm will keep the Republican Caucus united, carry on Dick Hinch’s incredible legacy of service, and work with Senate President Chuck Morse to deliver results for the people of New Hampshire.”

“NH does better with Republican leadership, and I wholeheartedly support Sherm Packard for the Speaker of the New Hampshire House,” says Tim Lang (R-Sanbornton). Lang, a third-term Republican, ran for Speaker in today’s caucus. “We have one Republican nominee that came out of caucus with unanimous support.”

Packard, as Acting Speaker, has been working on committee assignments, seating assignments, parking assignments – and most importantly – planning for the Convening Day session on January 6 and Governor Sununu’s inauguration the following day.

As reported first by NHJournal, Packard is eyeing a “drive-in” style session for the Constitutionally required convening day. Currently, the New Hampshire House does not have rules that allow for remote sessions, so the “drive-in” style fulfills the in-person meeting requirement. Committee assignments aren’t yet out, but they will be announced in the House Calendar released on December 30, Packard says.