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Nov 17, 2014 4:48 PM

Kevin Landrigan: NH House Republicans choose between two ex-speakers to lead them


Tuesday, House Republicans are going to be electing a new speaker. One thing's for sure; it's not going to be a rookie as we see here these two who want to speaker, Bill O'Brien and Gene Chandler both have had the job before.

Now on the major issues of the day, income taxes, abortion, gun rights you can't put a butter knife between them.

But on matters of style and how they would manage, they couldn't be more different.

Bill O'Brien was speaker of the House in 2011 until the voters ushered him out in 2012.

Will he change? He says yes and here's how. (Click the hyperlink for the full NH1.com exclusive interview with O'Brien).

"It's hard to demonize 15 or 20 people; it is much easier to demonize one person. I want each member of my team to be out there,'' O'Brien said, adding he wants to advocate spreading out the messenger role among many in his extended leadership team.

More than a decade ago Gene Chandler was a speaker of the House and governed as a good old boy and statesman. That was until 2004 when Chandler was forced to say he wouldn't run again as House leader after an ethics probe found he had taken $64 thousand dollars in gifts without reporting them.

Legislators have since adopted a gift ban in response and voters repeatedly have sent back a fully rehabilitated Chandler back to Concord. Now here's how Chandler says he'd be different than O'Brien. (Click the hyperlink for the full NH1.com exclusive interview with Chandler).

"There's a difference in style for how we do these things. I've always been a bottom down, a bottom up person I guess and I don't feel like the speaker should be the focus of what's going on, the results should be,'' Chandler said.

Now let's go to the tale of the tape between these two men who both want to be speaker.

On the likelihood of a casino occurring in New Hampshire, Gene Chandler, 17 terms in the House, always against a casino, Bill O'Brien, says he's open to the idea now having voted against it in the past. So we give chance of a casino to O'Brien.

What about consensus, who will compromise more? All you need to do is know how Governor Maggie Hassan feels about this in private. In public she says whoever is speaker I'll be able to work with them. In private, she wants Gene Chandler.

Get it done. Who would accomplish more? We saw in the two years Bill O'Brien was speaker, he was fiery, he was combative, and he was also a movement conservative. They cut taxes for the first time in more than a decade, cut the state budget for the first time in since World War II. So in terms getting it done, I might give it to O'Brien.

In 2012, O'Brien allowed three of his loyal lieutenants to work on a casino bill that would use the profit not to increase spending but cut business taxes.

Both said they think it's possible to balance the next two-year state budget and still cut business taxes and roll back onerous regulations they say restrict small business owners.

Even geographically these two come from worlds apart, Chandler, 67, a North Country native and graduate of Kennett High School in North Conway.

O'Brien, 63, was born to a military family in Trenton, NJ while his dad was stationed at Fort Dix. Chandler represents the northern tip of the state; O'Brien serves two towns in the southern tier and still commutes to Boston, MA where he works as a lawyer and software security CEO.

The closed-door Republican caucus continues a game of political ping pong.

Over the last eight elections, voters have four times dumped one party for another to run the New Hampshire House.

Don't forget to watch the full NH1.com exclusive interviews with Bill O'Brien and with Gene Chandler.


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