by Steve MacDonald

by RLCNH Chairman Aaron Day

History was made in advance of the election battle for Speaker of the House between past Speakers Bill O’Brien and Gene Chandler…and it’s not pretty.

On November 12, 2014 a group of six “big name Republicans” besmirched themselves and their party by attempting to interfere in the Speaker’s race. The six signers of the letter urged the election of Chandler to the Speakership. By doing so, they actually gave good reason why the new Republican majority should vote for Bill O’Brien.

Three of the miscreants—Kelly Ayotte, Charlie Bass, and Steve Merrill—have never been members of the New Hampshire House, and have neither understanding nor respect for the institution and its independence. Another signer is Doug Scamman, a notorious turncoat who in 2004 betrayed his own party by scheming with the Democrats to get himself elected Speaker. It is nothing short of scandalous that this betrayer of the Republican Party should be signing a letter in favor of Gene Chandler. Except for Kelly Ayotte, who should know better, these people are yesterday’s Republicans trying to pull strings for their old friend Gene Chandler. By sticking their noses into the Speaker’s race, they disgrace themselves and show why the new Republican majority should most definitely elect Bill O’Brien to the Speakership.

Lest we forget, in 2011-2012 under the leadership of Speaker Bill O’Brien, the conservative Republican majority notched a string of important successes for New Hampshire. They fixed a long-term budget deficit of nearly a billion dollars, putting the state on sound financial footing. They also ended the fake revenue projections used by the Democrats to justify ever-higher spending, and successfully resisted continued demands from the Democrats to tax more and spend more. Besides balancing the state budget, under Speaker O’Brien the Republican majority even reduced taxes in the process. That is the history of the success and leadership ability of Bill O’Brien.

On the other side there is Gene Chandler, and his uncomfortable history of multiple violations of House ethics rules, criminal misdemeanor charges, censure by the House, and a recommendation from the House Ethics Committee that he be expelled. Because these events occurred in 2004 and 2005, the letter-signers apparently expect them to be unknown to the new Republicans in the House. But not now: Here is the story for those who may not know it:

In the wake of the 2000 Presidential election Republicans enjoyed a strong majority in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives. Gene Chandler was elected Speaker, a position he held from 2001 through 2004. But in 2004 it was disclosed that he had violated campaign laws by failing to report more than $63,000 that had been donated to him. As a result, he was charged with a crime of political corruption, pled guilty, and was convicted. He was fined the maximum amount of $2,000 and sentenced to community service.

But that wasn’t the end of it: The next year, in 2005, the Legislative House Ethics Committee discovered that Chandler had broken House ethics rules by taking more than $250 from people who had business before the legislature, failed to report these “gifts,” and had used his position as Speaker of the House “for private benefit.” As a result, the Ethics Committee recommended that Chandler be expelled from the House. Although he was ultimately allowed to keep his seat, Chandler was publicly censured by the entire State House. His legal and ethical problems threw the Republican Party in the State House into chaos and allowed Douglas Scamman—a personal friend of the newly-elected Democrat governor John Lynch—to scheme with the minority Democrats for his election to Speaker. Scamman’s subsequent Speakership was helpful to the minority Democrats and set up a string of electoral victories for them. To this day the state of New Hampshire and the Republican Party have not fully recovered from the damage done by Gene Chandler and Doug Scamman in 2004 and 2005.

And the people who signed the letter want the Republican majority in the State House to put Gene Chandler back into the Speaker’s seat? It can only happen if the House Republicans ignore history.

Real Republicans pray that it does not happen.


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