CONCORD — Three days after a conservative primary challenger emerged, state Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bob Odell, R-Lempster, announced Friday that he won’t seek a seventh term representing District 8.
State Republican Party Vice Chairman J.P. Marzullo of Deering told the Contoocook Valley Republican Committee on Tuesday night that he would run against Odell, based mainly on their differences over Medicaid expansion – Odell supported it and Marzullo is against it. Marzullo had quickly picked up conservative support, including from the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire.
But Marzullo said Friday that he has no idea if his own announcement played a role in Odell’s announcement.
Odell, in his own statement, indicated the primary challenge was not a factor. He said he had been thinking of retiring from the Senate for several months to spend more time with his partner, Judy Butler, and friends and family.
He said he reached the final decision last week, which was before Marzullo made his announcement.
Marzullo, however, said he had asked Odell “quite a while ago” if he planned to run again.
Regardless, Marzullo stressed that he respects Odell and simply felt GOP primary voters deserved a choice.
In a statement, Odell said that he had first mentioned the possibility of retiring to Senate President Chuck Morse a few weeks ago.
“On one hand I was excited about interacting with the voters during the campaign. In many ways that is the fun part of the job. On the other hand I was hesitant about making another two-year commitment of time away from family and friends.
“Senator Morse advised me to take my time in deciding,” Odell said. “He also told me that while I might regret not being in the Senate, I would never regret spending more time with my loved ones. That pretty much summed up what I had been feeling inside. So when he and I spoke again last week I told him I had decided not to run for re-election with no regrets.”
Odell was a key supporter of the publicly funded expansion of private health insurance – dubbed Medicaid expansion. Marzullo spoke out against the Affordable Care Act in general after his wife, Donna, appeared in a television ad sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity advocacy group, saying that under the law her insurance was cancelled and then when it was extended the cost was far higher than it has been previously.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid later went to the Senate floor and described as “lies” the accusations made in the AFP ads aired in New Hampshire and elsewhere.
Reid’s comments sparked outrage and GOP accusations that Reid was calling Donna Marzullo and others in similar ads liars. Reid did not name any specific ads in his charges.
“I was surprised he stepped away from this,” Marzullo, 60, said. “He is a great guy. He has served our state and the constituents of District 8 well.”
While Odell is more moderate generally than Marzullo, but Marzullo said Medicaid expansion is “the main issue I did not agree with him on. It has greatly affected my family, but it was a tough decision for him and I respect it.”