O'Brien suggests unions tampering with his election

Last modified: 8/15/2012 12:00:00 AM

New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien, who is in a primary election race for his seat in the Legislature, is accusing "union thugs" at the Manchester post office of delaying delivery of his political fliers to hurt his re-election campaign.

O'Brien, a Mont Vernon Republican who has led the legislative fight against unions, made the complaint on his private Facebook page yesterday. The post was made public by Miscellany Blue, a left-leaning political blog. The Monitor independently confirmed through O'Brien's Facebook friends that the post did come from O'Brien's Facebook page.

In the post, O'Brien said that some of his political fliers had arrived in constituents' mailboxes three days after they were delivered to the post office, not one or two days as they are "supposed to." And one flier has yet to be delivered in Mont Vernon, more than five days after it was dropped at the post office, he wrote.

He noted in his post that the postal service is "of course staffed by union employees." He also referenced a 2004 incident in which the National Rifle Association tried to mail 50,000 fliers supporting then-President George W. Bush to New Hampshire voters. The mailer was delivered a month before the election but not put in mailboxes until six days after the election, he said.

"My sense is that there will come a time right before (the general election), or perhaps even before the primary, when the unionized postal employees will just stop delivering my mail entirely, cutting me off from having an effective conversation with my constituents," O'Brien's post said.

In addition to the accusations against the postal workers, O'Brien also accused "union operatives" of pulling up his political yard signs and replacing them with union signs.

And, he said, "union thugs" have twice threatened to boycott the general store in Mont Vernon if the owner does not take down her signs supporting O'Brien.

"This is the way the union bosses and their political wing, the Democrat party, think representative government should work in New Hampshire," O'Brien's post said. "For them, democracy is agreeing with them or being silent."

O'Brien's spokeswoman, Shannon Bettencourt, did not return a message seeking comment.

Officials at the Manchester post office could not be reached yesterday evening after the Monitor learned of the Facebook post.

Officials from the state employees union and the Democratic Party said last night they have not pulled any of O'Brien's signs or threatened to boycott his local store.

Pam Walsh, a senior adviser to the New Hampshire Democratic Party, noted that O'Brien's Facebook post said his political signs were yanked from "public" areas. Political signs can be placed only on private property, and state and local highway crews regularly pull up signs in public spaces or rights of way, she said.

"I imagine the road crews in New Hampshire are following the law and cleaning up public property," Walsh said. "It is happening to Republican candidates and to Democratic candidates. If you go down to the highway shed, they will give you your signs back."

Walsh characterized O'Brien's Facebook post as a continuation of his condemnation of unions during the legislative session. "He is unfairly and unjustly attacking working men and women across New Hampshire," she said.

O'Brien also complained in his post that "the unions" have promised to spend $50,000 in his district of 8,000 people to defeat him.

Jay Ward, political director of the State Employees' Association, said his union doesn't even spend that much money on a state Senate race.

"Who are these 'union thugs?' " Ward asked. "I find it very offensive. He has no proof. He's just making this stuff up and throwing it against the wall to see what sticks."

Peter Brunette of Laconia, a state employee who belongs to the SEA, responded to O'Brien's post on Facebook. "I said, 'Stop screwing with the unions, and they'll stop screwing with you.' "

As of last night, he was the only person to challenge O'Brien's post. "I read the post and I went, 'This is the speaker?' " Brunette said last night. "It sounds paranoid."

It didn't sound paranoid to Rep. Shawn Jasper, a Hudson Republican, who supported O'Brien's efforts to pass anti-union right-to-work legislation this session. He responded to O'Brien's post saying he wasn't surprised by the alleged union activity.

"We all know that these type of things happen," Jasper said in an interview last night. "I have anticipated and have heard for some time that the unions were going to be throwing tremendous amounts of money against Speaker O'Brien."

Jasper acknowledged that O'Brien's allegations can't be proven. But he's heard and seen enough, he said, to believe it. Jasper lost his re-election to the Hudson Board of Selectmen this year after he was an outspoken supporter of right-to-work legislation. Jasper lost his race to a retired teacher who had union support.

Jasper, who has served 18 years in the House, said he believes unions are more focused than ever on this race because O'Brien has "been unabashed in his desire to rein in the power of the unions."

Jasper continued: "I admire the speaker for the fact that he's known this (was coming) all along and said, 'Damn the torpedoes.' "

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)'

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