Jun 9, 2016 10:48 PM
NH1 News Political Director
CONCORD – When Shawn O’Connor files his candidacy for Congress on Friday, he’ll do it as an independent candidate.
The Bedford businessman who was bidding for the Democratic nomination in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District announced on Thursday that he’s no longer running as a Democrat.
“I really think that the partisan politics were getting out of hand and I decided at the end of the day I would take my message straight to the people,” O’Connor said in a one-on-one interview with NH1 News.
The first-time candidate was running for the Democratic nomination against former three-term U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. In April, O’Connor threatened legal action against Shea-Porter. O’Connor, a victim of domestic violence, claimed that Shea-Porter’s campaign spread rumors that he was a perpetrator of domestic violence.
“The domestic violence charge, accusing me, a survivor of domestic violence, of being a perpetrator, is just the most egregious,” O’Connor alleged in an exclusive interview with NH1 in April. “This was part of a mass conspiracy to impugn my record, to attack me personally.”
Shea-Porter’s campaign remained mostly silent, other than to put out a statement describing O’Connor’s charges as “untruthful” and a “desperate attack.”
O’Connor told NH1 News on Thursday that “one of the factors that did go into my decision was Carol Shea-Porter refused to debate me and made that very clear.”
He added that “the state party did not invite me to speak at the Democratic State Convention next weekend where all the other Democratic candidates are speaking. So I felt that I wasn’t welcome in the party apparatus and that’s fine. I didn’t get into politics to ingratiate myself to party bosses. I got into politics to try and make life better.”
O’Connor had also threatened to take legal action against the New Hampshire Democratic Party. At the time the NHDP said O’Connor made “inappropriate and troubling demands” that included what the state party likened to ransom.
O'Connor's new game plan
Asked by NH1 News how he hopes he can win as an independent candidate, O’Connor said “I think that New England has a long history of electing independents. I mean if we look to our left we have Vermont with Sen. Bernie Sanders, who I endorsed. To our right we have Sen. Angus King, also an independent, in Maine. Joe Lieberman won as an independent in Connecticut. And so I think that it’s time New Hampshire join the rest of New England and elect an independent.”
And he said that voters “know that what they’re getting with me is somebody who will caucus with the majority party, whether that’s Democratic or Republican, because I’m here to serve the people and I can best serve the people if I’m in the majority caucus. I won’t change my positions. I am who I am.”
Asked if his move to becoming an independent candidate changes his plans to take legal action against Shea-Porter, O’Connor said “in terms of lawsuits I’m not going to comment on pending litigation but I will certainly make sure that my attorneys are available when that suit is filed.”
With O’Connor switching to become an independent, Shea-Porter is the only major Democratic candidate in the race. On Thursday morning her campaign said that the candidate would file her candidacy at the Secretary of State’s office at 4pm that day. But two hours before she was expected to show up, her campaign changed plans, saying Shea-Porter would file on Friday at 11:30am. Friday is the last day for candidates to file.
New Hampshire’s 1st CD is one of the most closely watched swing congressional districts in the country. Shea-Porter was first elected to the seat in 2006, defeating GOP incumbent Jeb Bradley (who’s now the state Senate majority leader). She was re-elected in 2008 but defeated in 2010 by then-former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta. She beat Guinta in their 2012 rematch, but he ousted Shea-Porter for a second time in the 2014 three-peat.
Guinta is facing a serious primary challenge from Rich Ashooh, whom Guinta defeated in the 2010 Republican primary.
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