DERRY, N.H. – New Hampshire Republicans elected a tea party figure as their leader and rejected the establishment-backed candidate, a sign that activists in this early-voting presidential state have embraced the anti-government message that helped them make major gains in November’s election.

Former gubernatorial candidate Jack Kimball edged businesswoman Juliana Bergeron in a race decided by the more than 400 members of the statewide committee.

Kimball, who said he would “send Barack Obama packing” and elect a Republican governor in 2012, promised not to shy from a fight.

New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley was blunt in his criticism.

“Jack Kimball’s election as chair completes the radical right-wing takeover of the Republican Party in the Granite State,” Buckley said.

After his victory, Kimball sought to calm fears that he would guide the state GOP as a tea party.

“I am a Republican, a conservative Republican who happened to come out of the tea party. You’ll find the Reagan values in this guy,” he said.