A storm is brewing in the State House over a surprising topic: alcohol. No, not state alcohol regulations, or liquor licensing laws, or the drinking age, but rather the drinking habits of individual House members.
To refresh readers’ memories: over the weekend, Union Leader State House reporter Tom Fahey reported on a nasty exchange that took place between Deputy Majority Whip Shawn Jasper and fellow Republican Rep. Matt Quandt on the House floor, during which Jasper accused Quandt of frequently appearing drunk during House sessions. The report raised a lot of eyebrows – and raised a lot of hopes among gleeful Democrats – as Jasper and Quandt are theoretically on the same team.
Now, both legislators are scrambling to defend themselves in the press. Quandt, who represents Exeter along with his father Lee, gave an interview to the Portsmouth Herald, which included a strong denial that he has been intoxicated on the House floor, while admitting that he enjoys a beer or two with his lunch. Quandt is quoted as saying, “The legislative lunch is a very social occasion. Numerous representatives will go across the street to the pubs for a beer. I’m not ashamed to have a beer and talk to friends.”
Jasper, for his part, stood by his account and provided anecdotal evidence to back up his claim, telling the paper, “I rarely go outside of the Statehouse for lunch, but the times I have, I’ve seen Matt drinking — and certainly not just one…He’s come back visually intoxicated, and I even asked him how much he’s had to drink, and he’s responded that he has had multiple drinks.”
Several other Reps. went on the record both supporting and refuting Jasper’s claim. Those who support Quandt are claiming that he is the victim of a political attack. Quandt has been critical of key items on the House agenda, including the right-to-work legislation that is up for a critical veto override vote.
Sources within the State House have told NH Journal that Quandt has indeed been known to drink heavily at lunch, and that he is far from alone. However, we don’t entirely understand how his drinking habits relate to his legislative positions. New Hampshire voters want to see a debate on the issues; if Quandt’s personal habits require disciplinary action, that should be addressed as a separate issue.