Editorial: Good news for the GOP, good news for 2nd District voters
There was good news for the Republican Party and good news for the 2nd Congressional District last week: Former House speaker Bill O’Brien pulled the plug on his exploratory campaign for Congress.
This was good for the GOP because while O’Brien might well have won a primary campaign, it was difficult indeed to imagine such a fiery, right-wing lightning rod actually appealing to a broad swath of the region’s voters.
O’Brien, you’ll recall, was the biggest actor on the state’s political stage in 2011 and 2012. As speaker of the New Hampshire House at a time when the Republican majority was enormous, he presided over a term that included deep budget cuts to social welfare programs and the university system; the distracting and destructive revival of the House Redress of Grievances Committee; attacks on the rights of women and students; and a vindictive tone that poisoned the atmosphere at the State House. At one point legislators actually debated an anti-bullying bill inspired by the speaker’s behavior. In recent months, as a potential candidate for higher office, O’Brien has compared the Affordable Care Act to the Fugitive Slave Act in what seemed like the opening shot in a strange and outrageous campaign.
Second District voters, who in recent years have sent to Congress Democrats Annie Kuster and Paul Hodes and Republican Charlie Bass, seemed unlikely to make such a dramatic turn in 2014. If the GOP is to make a serious run at the 2nd District seat next year, there are surely more pragmatic potential candidates out there.
For voters interested in a serious debate about everything from the implementation of the new health care law to the high cost of college education to the slow pace of economic recovery, the coming campaign will be important. An O’Brien-Kuster race would no doubt have been dramatic – fun for journalists, perhaps, but not terrific for voters.