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Ex-N.H. House speaker Bill O’Brien takes new job, ends nascent campaign for U.S. Congress

Republican William O'Brien, of Mont Vernon, N.H., starts the legislative session as Speaker of the House, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Republican William O'Brien, of Mont Vernon, N.H., starts the legislative session as Speaker of the House, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

Former state House speaker Bill O’Brien has decided to end his nascent campaign for Congress.

O’Brien, a lawyer and Republican state representative from Mont Vernon, had been gearing up to challenge first-term U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, a Hopkinton Democrat, in 2014. But he started a new job yesterday as chief operating officer of the Cambridge, Mass.-based U.S. subsidiary of Brainloop, a German software company.

He said he’s done legal work for the company for years, and the job prospect emerged in the last couple of weeks.

“It’s just such an interesting opportunity for me,” O’Brien said. “It’s good for me. It’s good for my family. It’s just something I couldn’t pass up.”

As a result, he said, he won’t run for Congress.

“An interesting life has many attractive choices, and I’ve been honored that for me some of those choices have been public offices,” he said.

With O’Brien’s departure from the 2nd District race, former state senator Gary Lambert of Nashua is the sole Republican who’s announced he’s exploring a run against Kuster. Lambert said yesterday he’ll make an announcement about the race Sept. 4.

O’Brien became speaker of the House following the 2010 election, which saw Republicans win veto-proof majorities in the Legislature. For two years, he was a lightning rod for criticism from Democrats and others, especially over deep spending cuts in the two-year state budget enacted in 2011.

After Democrats retook the House in 2012, O’Brien retained his seat but didn’t seek to lead the Republican caucus or serve on a committee. Instead, he turned his attention toward a run for Congress.

While he didn’t formally declare he was a candidate, he gave every indication he would run against Kuster next year. He created an “O’Brien for Congress” committee in April, set up a campaign website, started raising money and filed a “statement of candidacy” July 10 with the Federal Election Commission.

But O’Brien’s fundraising got off to a slow start. He raised more than $42,000 in the second quarter, plus $60,000 that he loaned his own campaign, with $88,000 on hand as of June 30.

Kuster, who won her seat last year after losing in 2010 to Republican Charlie Bass, raised nearly $346,000 in the second quarter and had $557,000 on hand at mid-year.

O’Brien said yesterday he’ll remain in the state House, representing a district comprising Mont Vernon and New Boston.

“I will still meet my obligations as a state representative,” O’Brien said. “We’re back in session in January, and I’ll be there every session day.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein welcomed O’Brien’s departure from the 2nd District race.

“O’Brien knows that running on the irresponsible O’Brien-Bradley record would be a disaster in 2014, just like it was in 2012,” Kirstein said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican and potential candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

Legacy Comments15

It is good to laugh and say good riddance, but he caused a lot of long lasting damage for his two years in power.

From what I am told, my friend , Speaker Norelli, followed the words of Abe Lincoln , and with malice toward none, has healed many wounds. Political views aside, she has abolished legislation by combat and has been nothing but fair and understanding. We needed this. Hopefully, the O'Brien scars will be in the ash heap of history.

Maybe we'll get real lucky and he'll move back to Mass. Doc

What's DJ Bettencourt doing these days? Wonder if he has his resume in to Brainloop yet?

I understand the temptation. Lets be fair. D.J. and I didn't see eye to eye after he accepted the nomination for Leader of the Republican super majority. He was a young , ambitious man in his early twenties. I don't know a single Republican who actually wanted DJ as a leader, except Bill O'Brien. There was a rebellion at the caucus, after which I was black balled. Youth and inexperience contributed greatly to his serious error in judgment. O'Brien had no business imposing that kind of high profile responsibility on D.J. This young man was seduced by power and has paid dearly for it. He has made every attempt to redeem himself. One error in judgment under these circumstances should not define his life. We were all young once. I ask you to please find it in your hearts to let DJ , who now has a young daughter, go on with his life, and forgive his error. I do pray for him often. It seems the right thing to do.

You're right Tony. I was just trying to inject a little humor in here. Maybe it wasn't completely in good taste. He has certainly paid dearly for his mistake.

You are a better man than me. It took me a while to see things clearly. Thanks.

Figures, he barely held his seat last time. He knew he wouldn't win. Just like Palin, quits after two years to go for the big bucks.

Nooooooo! I was so looking forward to O'Brien vs. Kuster. The liberals in Cambridge are going to love Bill. Hey, is Brainloop hiring? Who wouldn't want to work for Bill O'Brien?

Lumping Jeb Bradley, a responsible respected man of honor, with Billy is just irresponsible. The Democratic spokesman has gone too far on this one. Everybody at The State House, including my Democrat friends know Jeb's positions are far more realistic; many of us still call him "Gentleman Jeb". The Democratic machine should at the very least check with Speaker Norelli and Minority Leader Larsen before smearing Jeb Bradley.

Hey Tony, did O'Brien use you as a reference to get his new job? Or maybe it was his other colleagues Steve Vaillancourt or Susan Emerson?

That would happen just about three days after hell freezes over! I am looking into what exactly this company does, so I would ask my friends and relatives who might be considering their services to please stop. That's the extent of my recommendation.

I agree that lumping Bradley with O'Brien was going too far.

So sad. An O'Brien run for Congress would have been a lot of fun, at least if you like really nasty and vicious campaigns. In that regard, I assume that Brainloop hired him as COO because of Billy's wonderful people skills--I.e., his knack for treating anyone who disagrees with him as either idiotic or evil.

In other words, he realized that he'd made himself a laughing stock during his tenure as House Speaker and as a result doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of beating Kuster - or a can of peas for that matter. So instead he decided to "one-up" Sarah Palin by "quitting" before he even had anything to "quit."

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