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updated 1/22/2011 3:14:38 PM ET 2011-01-22T20:14:38

New Hampshire Republicans have settled on a tea party-style candidate to be their new leader.

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It's a signal that rank-and-file activists in the early presidential-voting state are looking to make inroads against the party establishment.

More than 400 of the state's GOP faithful on Saturday chose former gubernatorial candidate Jack Kimball for a two-year term as chairman.

Kimball edged businesswoman Juliana Bergeron, a county leader who had the backing of state party leaders, including exiting chairman John H. Sununu.

In a speech, Kimball talked about restoring liberty to the nation and protecting freedoms. That kind of talk is usually reserved for candidates, not chairmen.

The party leadership race usually is a low-key affair. But Kimball made headlines when he predicted the state's first-in-the-nation primary would pick a conservative candidate. Past chairmen have remained neutral.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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