New Hampshire’s Republican House speaker dies of COVID-19

A top Republican in New Hampshire wasn’t in his new job long before he tragically died from the coronavirus.

State Rep. Dick Hinch, 71, passed away only a week after he was sworn in as New Hampshire’s next speaker of the House, the New York Post reported Thursday.

“We ask that Speaker Hinch’s family be given the highest level of privacy and respect as they deal with this unexpected tragedy,” Hinch’s office said in a statement following his death Wednesday, according to the Post. “There are no details to share at this time, however, I would ask that you please keep Speaker Hinch’s wife Pat, and their children in your warm wishes.”

Making “a positive difference”

The cause of Hinch’s death was confirmed in an autopsy and publicly announced Thursday by the state’s attorney general, with approval from Hinch’s family, NPR reported.

A Navy veteran, Hinch was on his seventh term in the state House, according to the New York Post, and had been elected speaker after this year’s elections, which handed both chambers of the state legislature to Republicans.

Hinch was sworn in at an outdoor ceremony on Dec. 2, where he made an appeal for unity between the parties.

“I ask each of you to not look at each other as Republicans and Democrats, but as friends and colleagues, working towards the same goal,” he said, according to NPR.

“Our methods to get there and what we envision as a better New Hampshire may be different,” Hinch added, “but at the end of the day, please remember that we have a responsibility to respect each other and understand each other, that we are all here to make a positive difference in our communities and our state.”

Investigation underway

Many in New Hampshire’s 400-person House skipped the ceremony — “most of them Democrats,” the New York Post reported — after news that some Republicans had tested positive for COVID-19 following a caucus meeting in November.

According to the Post, state Rep. Sherman Packard (R) will take over as speaker in an acting role.

The news of Hinch’s sudden passing brought messages of condolences from his colleagues, as well as warnings about the coronavirus, as the state’s health department begins an investigation. More than 290,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 this year, according to NBC News.

New Hampshire’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu, called Hinch’s death a “stark reminder” of the pandemic’s risks. “No one is immune,” he said, according to the New York Post. “It’s spreading in our community; it doesn’t affect the elderly, it affects everyone, everywhere, and we have to stay vigilant.”

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