Newly elected NHGOP House Speaker Dick Hinch died of COVID-19, according to a statement released by the N.H. attorney general’s office, a result certain to increase criticism of how House Republicans have treated rules and restrictions related to the pandemic.
“New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennie V. Duval has determined that the cause of Speaker Hinch’s death was COVID-19. During this difficult time, the family has requested that their privacy continue to be respected,” according to the statement.
Hinch died Wednesday night, inspiring an outpouring of praise and sympathy from both sides of the aisle. Former U.N. ambassador (and likely 2024 POTUS candidate) Nikki Haley tweeted: “Heartbreaking to hear about the passing of Speaker Hinch. He will be remembered for his warm heart and dedication to the people of New Hampshire. Please join me in lifting up his family in love and prayer.”
And Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan said: “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.”
However, there has also been bipartisan criticism of how elected Granite State Republicans — and the NHGOP House Caucus in particular — have handled the coronavirus outbreak.
A November 20 gathering of incoming House Republicans at the McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester, featuring an open food buffet and no mask requirements, led to several cases of COVID-19. NHGOP House leadership did not disclose that fact until the eve of Organization Day, angering Democrats who would be at the outdoor event the next day.
“We are less than 24 hours from Organization Day and the Republican Leadership in the House purposefully neglected to tell the Speaker’s office or their Democratic colleagues of an outbreak within their caucus,” outgoing Speaker Steve Shurtleff said at the time. “We were with Republican Leadership just yesterday for Organization Day and the COVID-19 outbreak was not mentioned to anyone.”
The criticism came from GOP Gov. Chris Sununu as well.
“It was badly managed from the beginning,” Sununu said of the NHGOP House caucus’s COVID track record. “As things moved forward, communications should have been happening between both parties and both bodies,” Sununu said, “I don’t know how that [communication] transpired, but my understanding is it wasn’t good.”
That was before the news hit of Hinch’s death due to COVID-19. Afterward, Carroll County GOP Rep. William Marsh, an ophthalmologist with a medical degree from Dartmouth, put the blame squarely on his fellow Republicans.
“Those in our caucus who refused to take precautions are responsible for Dick Hinch’s death,” Marsh tweeted.