This coming Thursday, Republican state representatives will send a clear message about their intentions for the next two years when they choose their candidate for Speaker of the House. That is because the two major candidates, Gene Chandler and William O’Brien, represent two starkly different forms of conservatism.
Chandler is the quintessential same-but-less conservative. That is, his idea of conservative governance is essentially conserving the status quo. Maybe trimming a few programs here and there, likely not growing government as fast as the Democrats would, but definitely no major changes with a Speaker Chandler. O’Brien, on the other hand, is an ideological conservative. That is, his idea of conservative governance is a government that carries out certain essential functions competently and frugally, but otherwise stays out of our way. Expect to see real spending cuts, meaningful reductions in the reach of government, and definitely no more business as usual under a Speaker O’Brien.
If Republicans don’t get that the voters are demanding the O’Brien version of conservatism then they are incurably myopic and tone deaf.
The voters made wholesale changes to the Statehouse because they want wholesale changes in state government. True…
… they reelected Governor Lynch. But he ran a campaign totally devoid of ideas. He was reelected simply because he was able to dip into his personal fortune and frighten voters into voting for him by demonizing John Stephen. His decision to run a totally negative campaign has made him an irrelevancy, and he should be treated as such.
Chandler is not the man to make the wholesale changes to state government demanded by the voters. O’Brien is. Consider three issues that are certain to figure prominently in the next legislative session: education funding, redistricting and the budget deficit.
Chandler is on record as wanting to continue the current court-mandated system of education funding where even school districts that can pay for their own schools get state funding. Indeed, in 2008 he supported amending the state constitution to require just that, incredibly telling the press that it “meets our Republican ideals.” In contrast, O’Brien has consistently supported rational and sustainable education funding.
Chandler hardly put up any fight when the Supreme Court commandeered redistricting back in 2001. In contrast, O’Brien, a successful and well-respected lawyer, knows judicial activism and overreach when he sees it and can articulate the case against it. Something that Republicans could never count on when Chandler was the Speaker.
And Chandler’s record as a fiscal conservative leaves a great deal to be desired. He actually opposed the budget presented by the last Republican Governor, Craig Benson, because it spent too little. No wonder that the Blue Hampshire website is rooting for Chandler to defeat O’Brien. Enough said.
If Republican state representatives want to send the voters the message that they understand the voters’ concerns and that they intend to address those concerns, then they should choose Bill O’Brien as their candidate for Speaker.