Controversial NH Speaker Won’t Seek Leadership Position in House
O’Brien says he will focus on keeping taxes low, rebuilding his law practice.
House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, has stated that he will not seek a leadership position in the next legislative session after realizing that Democrats had taken over the House of Representatives in Concord.
O’Brien congratulated Democrats for “doing an outstanding job for motivating and turning out their voters” on Nov. 6, capturing the corner office, both seats in Congress, and flipping the Republican’s supermajority at the Statehouse upside down. The GOP appears to have kept control of the state Senate, 13-11, although there could be two recounts.
“My focus in the House will remain directed on working to deliver a low tax, job-friendly state that maximizes our personal freedoms,” O’Brien said, adding that he would also be work to improve the economy “by reinvigorating my law practice and rebuilding a client base that has shown great patience with me in my detour as House Speaker these last two years.”
O’Brien was a lightning rod of controversy in the House, often making statewide and national headlines, almost immediately upon taking the helm after Republicans swept into power in a historic shift of seats in 2010. He reportedly removed representatives from committee assignments and took other actions that prompted Democrats to nickname him “Bully Billy.”
O’Brien, and other conservatives, targeted Planned Parenthood funding, pushed a repeal of the state’s popular gay marriage law, attempted to repeal contraception coverage provisions in the Affordable Care Act for All, and attempted to implement right-to-work legislation.
In an alleged attempt to consolidate power, Republicans implemented a redistricting plan using 2010 Census data to ensure future Republican victories and O’Brien fought legal actions to preserve the plans.
In May, state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, D-Manchester, openly criticized O’Brien's tactics from the House floor. When O’Brien attempted to shut his comments down, Vaillancourt stated, “Sieg Heil,” as a parting shot. The Speaker called on the sergeant-at-arms to remove Vaillancourt from the House and he refused to leave. A standoff ensued and Vaillancourt eventually offered a meek apology.
The next day, a Concord Monitor editorial cartoonist portrayed O’Brien with a Hitler mustache offering, "If the Mustache Fits ..." creating more controversy.
Controversy continued in July, when O’Brien held a press availability in his office about possible electronic benefits transfer card fraud and barred the two reporters from the Concord Monitor’s Statehouse bureau from attending the availability. Later, O’Brien stated that the action was not about the offensive cartoon but that the newspaper was a propaganda tool for the Democrats.
In August, while beating back a primary challenge, O’Brien made headlines again, accusing the U.S. Postal Service of holding back his political mail on his Facebook page, based on the fact that some postal employees were “union thugs.” A week later, he speculated the problems may had been solved.
O'Brien won his primary and retained his seat on Nov. 6, and announced on Nov. 7, that he wouldn't seek a leadership position for the next session.