By John Toole
---- — CONCORD — Senate Republicans caucus today and could clear up the future of the Senate presidency.
Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, a friend and ally of Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, the only officially declared candidate, said he will press the issue of the presidency in the GOP caucus.
“It would be very good if we could get this resolved in the caucus,” Rausch said.
The Senate is expected to formally choose a successor to Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, next week.
Republicans control the Senate, 13-11, and Morse, chairman of the Finance Committee, wants to replace Bragdon, who has stepped aside to become head of the Local Government Center.
But Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, while not formally declaring a bid for the presidency, has approached other senators, including Democrats, about whether they would support him.
Sanborn’s prospects would hinge on a successful alliance with Democrats, who would hope to enhance their standing in the Senate through an unusual coalition with one of the body’s most conservative members.
But Sanborn would risk alienating some of the most powerful Republicans in the state, including Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, who has declared his support for Morse.
Morse, meanwhile, is hedging his bets by reaching out to Democrats, who also are sharing with him their concerns about how best and fairly to operate the Senate.
“I think, at the end of the day, if the Sanborn thing doesn’t cause a rift among Republicans, Chuck will come out with it,” said former Sen. Bob Letourneau, a Republican from Derry.
Letourneau sees today as a decisive moment in the campaign for the presidency.
“You can’t go to the floor without knowing what’s going to happen,” Letourneau said.
Democrats, meanwhile, caucus tomorrow to discuss their options.
“We’re going to meet Wednesday afternoon, all the Democrats, as brothers and sisters,” said Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester.
“It’s important for us to sit down and talk about this,” D’Allesandro said.
The outcome remained uncertain yesterday, though speculation continued to favor Morse.
“I think it’s more open than what people are saying,” said Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton. “I think it’s very fluid.”
Rausch said Morse didn’t even need to call him for his support.
“I have committed to Chuck,” Rausch said, praising Morse’s handling of the state budget and support for highway funding and a casino in Salem.
“I don’t know of any other viable candidate out there,” Rausch said.