Bedford state Rep. Dan Hynes has left the Republican Party over what he says is its abandonment of conservative principles, in particular his opposition to the GOP’s embrace of the Parents Bill of Rights.

By changing his party status to “undeclared/independent,” Hynes reduced the size of the GOP majority to 199-196-2 and two vacancies left to fill, exposing yet again how narrowly Republicans are clinging to power in the closely-divided body.

Hynes made the announcement in a Facebook post. News of his departure from the GOP was first reported by Steven Porter in The Boston Globe.

Hynes told NHJournal he has no plans to endanger the GOP’s hold on the House. “I have always been treated well by Speaker Packard and don’t have any issues with how he does his job.” And he insisted that he has a “strong voting record as a constitutional conservative.”

And, he said, his politics put him at odds with the GOP in areas like spending, legalizing recreational marijuana (he supports it), and, in particular, the Parents Bill of Rights.

“Last month, an overwhelming majority of Republicans chose to selectively promote the rights of some people at the expense of the fundamental constitutional rights of others,” Hynes wrote. “It is unfortunate that legislators can’t come together to protect the rights of parents while also protecting the constitutional rights of children.”

Hynes was one of a handful of Republicans who helped narrowly defeat the Parents Bill of Rights legislation last month. Polls show it has strong support among Republicans and independent voters in New Hampshire, and even a majority of Democrats support some of its key provisions.

“Given his radical opposition to House Republicans’ top priority, this may have been unavoidable,” said House Majority Leader Jason Osborne. “Maybe he should have thought about this before he ran for office.”

Hynes statement about the “constitutional rights of children” struck some as odd. Under the proposed legislation, schools would be required to disclose to parents what their children are being taught regarding sex, gender, and identity. The law would also require school districts currently keeping information secret from parents to truthfully disclose to moms and dads what teachers, administrators, and coaches already know regarding their kids’ behavior at school regarding sex and gender.

Does Hynes really believe children have a “constitutional right” to keep that information secret from their custodial parents? Parents who regularly monitor their children’s media consumption, review their online activities, and search their rooms? Can a 10-year-old tell his parents that what they know about his education is up to him, not them?

Hynes said he believes schoolchildren should be able to receive counseling from school staff without their parents’ knowledge, and counselors should be able to keep what they know about children confidential from concerned parents.

“While parents have extremely broad rights to raise their children, it isn’t unlimited,” Hynes told NHJournal via email. “If a parent wanted to prevent life-saving treatment from being given to a child, there is a procedure where the court can step in and order it against their parent’s wishes. One of the things the court can consider is the age of the child and their wishes. I believe a 17-year-old’s wishes would and should be given much more weight than a child much younger.”

Republicans at the national and local levels have made defending parents’ rights a key part of their political agenda, while Democrats have aggressively attacked parents’ rights advocates as dangerous bigots. House Republicans who spoke to NHJournal on background said Hynes’ extremism on the issue made him a political liability in the party.

“He’s gone. Good riddance,” one House Republican said. “He was never with us, anyway.”

Hynes isn’t likely to be welcomed by the Democratic Party any time soon, either. He is currently involved in a legal battle with New Hampshire Democratic Party and its chairman Ray Buckley. The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that a defamation lawsuit Hynes filed against them can move forward in Hillsborough Superior Court.

At issue is a 2018 campaign flier claiming Hynes, who was running for state Senate at the time, was a convicted extortionist who had been disbarred. But the flier got several key facts wrong. Now Buckley and his party are exposed to potential liability.

“Dan Hynes targeted woman-owned businesses for extortion. Hynes was charged by Republican Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, convicted by the State of New Hampshire for ‘theft by extortion’ and disbarred,” the flier stated.

While Hynes was, in fact, convicted of extorting small business women and punished for it, he was not disbarred, and his conviction was later annulled. That made the flier fundamentally false, the court ruled.

According to court records, Hynes sent a “Cease and Desist/Demand Letter” to Claudia Lambert, Claudia’s Signature Salon owner in Concord, in 2009. Hynes claimed that because Lambert’s salon charged women more money for haircuts than men or children, she was engaging in gender discrimination.

Hynes’ letter demanded that she stop charging women more money and that she pay him $1,000. Lambert’s husband contacted the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, and during a sting operation, an investigator witnessed Hynes taking $500 to settle his claim of unfair trade practices. During that meeting, Hynes reportedly said he had sent other letters to other hair salons and was currently in negotiations with these businesses and their attorneys.

Hynes was convicted, ordered to pay restitution, and suspended his law license for a year. The conviction was later annulled after completing all the terms of his sentence.