New Hampshire House Speaker Richard Hinch dies from COVID-19

  • Rep. Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, shown in 2017, has died, according to state officials. AP file

Monitor staff
Published: 12/9/2020 6:28:09 PM

Newly elected New Hampshire House Speaker Richard Hinch died from COVID-19 a week after he was sworn in, state officials announced.

After receiving authorization from his family, the Attorney General’s Office announced Hinch’s cause of death Thursday, the day after he died. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennie Duval determined Hinch died of COVID-19 following an autopsy.

“During this difficult time, the family has requested that their privacy continue to be respected,” Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said in a statement.

The announcement was likely to send a jolt through New Hampshire state politics. In November, Hinch and top Republican leadership held at least two meetings indoors in a Manchester ski area – first on Nov. 9 to celebrate the election results, and second on Nov. 20.

The Nov. 20 event resulted in an outbreak that led to four positive COVID-19 cases from participants, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. At the time the outbreak was announced Hinch and his office said that all representatives that had tested positive were not likely to show up to the Dec. 3 Organization Day.

Immediately after Hinch’s death was announced Wednesday, condolences came from across New Hampshire’s political landscape.

Republican Senate President Chuck Morse said he and Hinch were close friends.

“I considered Speaker Dick Hinch to be one of my very best friends,” Morse said. “The news that he has passed away so unexpectedly is heart breaking. Dick was truly a kind and humble man. He always dedicated himself to what he liked to say, ‘to the better of,’ that meant his family, his friends, his hometown of Merrimack and the State of New Hampshire.”

Both Hinch and Morse were sworn in as speaker of the House and Senate a week ago.

“We were so looking forward to serving together because we had so many plans,” Morse said. “Going forward without Dick will be very difficult but I have confidence that, in our sorrow, the members of the House and the Senate will all rally and live up to his memory. Dick’s wife Pat and family will have all my love and support in the days and weeks to come. New Hampshire has lost one of its best and most dedicated public servants.”

Gov. Chris Sununu called for all flags in the state to be flown at half-staff, effective immediately.

“Profoundly sad to learn of the passing of Speaker Dick Hinch,” Sununu said in a statement. “Speaker Hinch was a fierce defender of the New Hampshire Advantage, a close friend, and a respected public servant. His loss will be greatly felt by the people of this state, and I ask Granite Staters to join me in praying for his family during this incredibly difficult time.”

Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy echoed those words.

“Today the New Hampshire Legislature lost one of our own,” Soucy said. “May we as his colleagues stand together and continue the important work of the people of New Hampshire. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife and family.”

Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, also expressed sadness over Hinch’s death.

“I had the opportunity to work with him closely when I was Governor, including working together to enact a landmark settlement to improve mental health services and to increase funding for combating substance misuse,” Hassan said in a statement. “Serving in our legislature — and especially in leadership positions as Speaker Hinch did — requires tremendous effort, all in essentially a volunteer capacity. Speaker Hinch was deeply committed to this service, and I am grateful for all he gave to our state and our country.”

A U.S. Navy veteran, Hinch also was active in his community, serving stints on the Merrimack Board of Selectman and town budget committee. He also was the owner and principal broker of a real estate agency.

In an emotional speech when he was elected speaker Dec. 3, Hinch urged lawmakers to view each other as “friends and colleagues,” rather than members of opposing parties, particularly during a pandemic.

“I’ve been working with members of our caucus in good times and in bad for a number of terms. Long nights, stressful days, but charging ahead for what we believed was the proper course,” he said. “Through that time, I’ve worked to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table.”

The swearing in of the the 400-member House and 24-member Senate was held outdoors at the University of New Hampshire because of the coronavirus pandemic. More than a quarter of House members, most of them Democrats, skipped the ceremony after learning the day before that several Republican lawmakers had tested positive for the virus after attending an indoor GOP caucus meeting Nov. 20 where many attendees weren’t wearing masks.

(Political reporter Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was included in this article.)

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