Testerman won’t step down despite removal from Merrimack County GOP leadership

Karen Testerman

Karen Testerman File

By MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Monitor staff

Published: 02-11-2024 9:00 AM

Karen Testerman is not backing down.

After the New Hampshire GOP Executive Committee voted 28-0 to remove her from her position as Merrimack County Chair, she refused to resign. Instead, she’ll carry on steering the ship as best she can until county committee members tell her otherwise, she said.

“We plan to operate as a committee by the committee. … It is a ground-up organization,” she said last week. “It’s not a monarchy.”

The unanimous vote to remove Testerman and Patricia Jorgensen, the Merrimack County vice chair, comes on the heels of an ongoing lawsuit filed in November to close the party’s primary to allow only registered Republicans to cast ballots, preventing same-day registration and voting from undeclared voters.

To Testerman, allowing voters to declare party affiliation on the day of the primary enables “five-minute members” that can influence the outcome of the vote. Instead, the primary should be a time for party members to solidify around a candidate without outside influence.

“When you’re trying to figure out who is going to represent you on a board of directors of the tennis club, you don’t want the golf club members coming over saying, ‘Oh well, I think so-and-so is better than them,’ ” she said.

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At the party’s annual meeting in January 2023, when Chris Ager was elected chair, a resolution was passed to close the state’s primary. However, tenets of the resolution, like requiring voters to register 30 days before the election, violate state law that allows for same-day registration.

With that, Ager delivered the resolution to Secretary of State David Scanlan, but the effort failed. An open primary was held in January, where a record number of Republican ballots were cast.

But that’s not to say the party won’t restrict the primary in the future, said Ager.

“I have established an ad hoc study committee to review our primary election process,” said Ager. “I have asked the committee to recommend changes, if any, in conducting Republican primaries with a data-driven, methodical approach.”

Testerman’s suit names the Secretary of State and N.H. GOP Committee, alleging that both parties neglected her resolution and conducted an open primary against the party’s directive.

Karen and David Testerman, Patricia Jorgensen and Nikki Carter are named as original plaintiffs in the suit. Carter recently requested to be removed from the suit.

To Testerman, her legal actions are representative of “good-faith Republicans” who are advocating for complete control over the primary, to ensure that they maintain the right to choose a candidate for the national convention. Undeclared voters participating in the New Hampshire primary do not fall in this camp, she argued.

“That’s where the concern is, that we don’t want somebody coming in to raid it or to support the less-desirable candidate,” she said. “It’s the primaries where you really iron out who is closest to the platform.”

The day before the primary, Testerman filed an emergency injunction, requesting that all ballots cast by undeclared voters be set aside until the suit is resolved. The order was denied.

But her legal actions have also led to an overhaul of county leadership. Prior to Testerman and Jorgensen’s removal, Alyssa Ehl, Jose Cambrils and Yury Polozov resigned as the clerk, treasurer and finance chair.

Now an election will be held to replace Testerman and Jorgensen.

Testerman maintains that her removal violates the party’s bylaws, where members can only be removed if they support an opposing candidate in an election where a Republican is running.

However, the bylaws also state that any officer may be removed at any time by a two-thirds vote of state committee or executive committee members.

“He has no authority,” she said of Ager. “I don’t know why he’s taken this retaliatory move to remove me and exercise his authority. He thinks as a dictator.”