By JOHN DiSTASO, News Editor
MONT VERNON – Republican former New Hampshire House Speaker William O’Brien confirmed Friday that he will seek another term in the House. If he wins and if the Republicans take back the majority, O’Brien said he will also run for speaker again.
Last spring and summer, O’Brien, 62, of Mont Vernon, had been considering running for the 2nd District U.S. House seat held by Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster. But last August he decided to leave public service following his current term in the New Hampshire House and take a position as chief operating officer of the Cambridge, Mass.-based U.S. subsidiary of Brainloop, a German software company.
But with prospects for Republican seemingly brightening in the upcoming election, O’Brien, a House member since 2004, several weeks ago began to reconsider his decision.
Today, he told New Hampshire Journal that he met Thursday night with a group of “candidates and current representatives. It was expressed that there does not seem to be assertive conservative leadership coming forward for the next term.
”We’ve watched the Democratic increase the size of government and increase regulations, and we looked toward whether there will be leadership that will present and pursue an alternative. They asked me to run again and put myself forward as speaker, and I’ve decided to do that.”
O’Brien said he believes he can balance his family and professional responsibilities with another term in the House.
“It’s the same issue that faces every state lawmaker,” he said. “We do make compromises with family and career because we believe community service is important. I think I can arrange things very well.”
Other GOP lawmakers who had been considering running for speaker if O’Brien did not seek reelection were at the Thursday night meeting, he said. They include Reps. Pam Tucker of Greenland, who was Deputy Speaker when O’Brien served as speaker from 2010 to 2012, and Rep. Lynne Ober of Hudson.
He said he has also been in contact with Rep. Carol McGuire of Epsom and believes she is supporting him.
O’Brien said he is confident the GOP can win back the House from the Democrats, who regained the majority in 2012.
“People are really disappointed in President Obama and Obamacare and the way the current majority has handled that issue with regard to Medicaid expansion and becoming activists for a liberal agenda. I think people will say it’s time to return to fiscal sanity in Concord.”
Democrats immediately sharply criticized O’Brien, who they view as a “radical,” divisive figure who can be cited as a reason for them to retain their majority in the House.
Citing O’Brien’s controversy-filled term as speaker, state party chair Raymond Buckley said, “Bill O’Brien’s tenure as Speaker was an unmitigated disaster. His far-right, Tea Party policies and unwillingness to work across the aisle hurt New Hampshire families and disgraced the Granite State.
“ The effects of his painful budget cuts and irresponsible leadership are still being felt by seniors, students, and working families alike,” Buckley said. “There is no way that voters in November will choose to send O’Brien back to the State House. He has shown that he cannot be trusted to serve the people of New Hampshire.
“Democrats across the state are organized and united, and ready to work every day to stop candidates like failed Speaker — and general embarrassment — Bill O’Brien from running our state into the ground,” Buckley said.
O’Brien responded, “One of the hallmarks of an empty political philosophy is the need to demonize the other side. If you have nothing to say about yourself then all that is left are bad things to say about your opponent.
“This rhetoric is the last gasp of a dying liberal philosophy,” O’Brien said.
(Our earlier report on O’Brien, published May 21, follows.)
(May 21 report:)
CONCORD – Former House speaker Bill O’Brien says he’s been asked to reverse course and consider running again for the New Hampshire House, and speaker, again.
“I have been asked by some current representatives and possible candidates to reconsider” his decision last August not to run again, he said.
He had been considering running for the 2nd District U.S. House seat held by Democratic Rep. Ann Kuster, but last August instead decided to leave public service and take a position as chief operating officer of the Cambridge, Mass.-based U.S. subsidiary of Brainloop, a German software company.
O’Brien remained in the House presumably to finish out his current term, often speaking out as a conservative voice on key issues, and sometimes issuing procedural challenges to current Democratic speaker Terie Norelli.
But with prospects for Republicans viewed as brightening in November, rumors emerged two weeks ago that O’Brien was considering running for the House, and for speaker, again.
At that time, O’Brien told NHJournal.com that he had been approached by supporters, and, “I told them I would look around and consider whether there is strong conservative leadership coming forward for the House. If there doesn’t seem to be, I told them I would ask friends, supporters, constituents, and, most importantly, family for their advice and then make a decision. So there are many ‘ifs’ and no decision on whether I should change my mind.”
Republicans already interested in running for speaker include O’Brien’s former deputy speaker, Pam Tucker, current House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, and Reps. Laurie Sanborn and Carol McGuire.
And with Norelli announcing she will not run again for the House, if Democrats retain the majority, there is expected to be a contest for speaker on that side as well.
The state Democratic Party today issued a fund-raising email with party chair Raymond Buckley writing, “It’s this simple: If Bill O’Brien returns as Speaker, the progress we’ve made over the last two years is stopped and New Hampshire moves backwards. Help us win this November and let’s keep New Hampshire moving forward.”