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Former N.H. House Speaker Mulling Kuster Challenge Former N.H. House Speaker Mulling Kuster Challenge

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Former N.H. House Speaker Mulling Kuster Challenge

photo of Kevin Brennan
February 8, 2013

New Hampshire GOP state Rep. Bill O'Brien is considering challenging Democratic Rep. Ann McLane Kuster in 2014.

"I'm concerned for the country, I really am," O'Brien said in a phone interview Friday. "I think we need another fiscally responsible voice down in Washington."

O'Brien served as the speaker of the state House of Representatives from late 2010 through 2012. Republicans lost their majority in the state House last November, and some critics suggested the conservative agenda O'Brien pursued as speaker was to blame. O'Brien opted not to run for a leadership position after the GOP relinquished control of the House.

But O'Brien said his record as speaker will be an asset in a Republican primary if he decides to seek the party's nomination in the state's 2nd District. "I have a lot of folks who come up to me and say we really appreciate what you did," O'Brien said.

Kuster unseated former Rep. Charlie Bass last year after narrowly losing to the Republican in 2010. Kuster won by 5 percentage points in 2012, but she'll face reelection next year without the benefit of having President Obama on the top of the ticket. O'Brien said Kuster is "really far to the left of the mainstream of this congressional district."

Kuster faced questions this week after WMUR-TV reported she owed nearly $11,000 in late property tax payments. The congresswoman immediately made the payments, but an editorial in Friday's Concord Monitor said Kuster owes her constituents an explanation for the delay.

"It's a disappointment that she should be someone who over her career has espoused the growth of taxes to the extent she has, and then we find out that that's good for everybody but not her when it comes to paying them," O'Brien said.

The former House speaker isn't the only Republican publicly weighing a run for the seat. Former state Sen. Gary Lambert blasted Kuster for the late tax payments this week, and he told The Hill he might run in 2014.

O'Brien called Lambert "a good man and an honorable public servant," but he said the former state senator has taken positions which could prove problematic in a potential GOP primary, specifically citing Lambert's vote to keep the state's cap-and-trade initiative in place and his support for a plan to extend commuter rails from Boston to New Hampshire. "One wonders if it's only because he has a law office in Boston," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said he's heard from other Republicans interested in taking on Kuster next year, but that most told him they'd stay out of the race if he mounts a bid. "I think I can clear the field," he said.

O'Brien said he'll decide whether to run within the next few months, citing Kuster's fundraising prowess as a concern. "She's a money-raising machine, so whoever's going to oppose her has to get early to really garner both popular and financial support," he said.

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