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Republican representative changes party affiliation after anti-vaccine mandate rally at State House

By Paula Tracy - InDepthNH | Sep 15, 2021

BROOKFIELD – State Rep. William D. Marsh has changed his political affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

The retired ophthalmologist said he decided to do so after members of the GOP House caucus held an anti-vaccine mandate event Tuesday.

“I can’t stand idly by while extremists reject the reasonable precautions of vaccines and mask wearing,” said Marsh, in a statement.

Last year, Marsh spoke out following the sudden death of Republican House Speaker Dick Hinch.

“Those in our caucus who refused to take precautions are responsible for Dick Hinch’s death,” Marsh tweeted on December 10, 2020 alongside a screenshot of the Attorney General’s autopsy report revealing that Speaker Hinch died of COVID-19 just a week after being sworn in.

Last Spring, Marsh was chosen by Gov. Chris Sununu to serve on the state COVID-19 reopening task force.

Marsh represents a traditionally Republican district in Carroll County and some believe it might be hard for him to get re-elected as a Democrat.

This will reduce the Republican majority in the House from 21 to 20 after the party lost a special election in Bedford this week, in a traditionally strong Republican district.

Catherine Rombeau won the seat over Republican Linda Rea Camarota in a special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Republican David Danielson, R-Bedford. Rombeau won by a 41 vote margin in the recount up four votes from a win of 37 in the original tally.

“Welcome to the party of truth, facts and science!” Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley tweeted in response to Marsh’s party affiliation change.

Matt Wilhelm, D-Manchester, also wrote on Twitter that Marsh was driven to the change by a “chaotic-anti Science Statehouse event.”

“The NH GOP continue to prove that they’re reckless, dangerous, and completely out of touch,” he tweeted.

New Hampshire House Republicans held an anti-vaccination press conference outside the State House, Tuesday in response the Biden Administrations efforts to increase vaccination rates nationwide. Speakers included Republican House Speaker Sherman Packard, Deputy Speaker Steven Smith, and Speaker Pro Tempore Kim Rice.

At times the event was out of control, however, with members of the crowd chanting “Do your job!” and “Where’s Chris Sununu?” over Speaker Packard.

Speaker Packard tried to quiet the crowd, shouting back, “You’re yelling at the wrong people!”

During his remarks, Speaker Packard stated, “We have a president who said he’s for the people, for the workers, but he wants to have thousands, millions of workers fired for not taking a vaccine.”

“Make some laws! Make some laws to stop employers from firing us for not getting vaccinated,” one angry rally attended screamed.

According to the list of House legislative service requests (LSRs) that began to populate the General Court website Tuesday, some Republican lawmakers hope the state will do just that.

Rep. Juliet Harvey-Bolia, R-Tilton, has filed LSR 2022-0141, prohibiting an employer from discriminating against an employee based on the employee’s vaccination status.

Rep. Lino Avellani, R-Sanbornville, has filed a similar LSR, 2022-0077, prohibiting discrimination in employment based on vaccination status.

Additional LSRs foreshadow efforts to ban public schools from requiring face masks and allowing over the counter sales of ivermectin, a drug used to treat animals that some anti-vaxxers erroneously believe can be used to prevent COVID.

Following the event, House Democratic Leader Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, released a statement: “Today’s political stunt was shameful but no surprise. This is the same House GOP that attempted to hide a super spreader event from the public last November and spent tax dollars refunding businesses that were fined for ignoring the Governor’s safety guidelines. From the start of the pandemic, NH Republicans have been working overtime to mislead the public, feed into conspiracy theories, and disrupt common-sense efforts to slow the spread of COVID.”

“Vaccination is our path out of the pandemic. While Democrats are working to keep the economy open, Republicans are doing everything they can to force us back into lockdown. The Speaker’s rants about vaccines today were nothing more than an attempt to fuel flames of discontent and directly conflict with his message to the House that he “wished he had a list” of members who were vaccinated,” Cushing added.

Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, stated in response to the rally, “New Hampshire Republicans have no leg to stand on regarding workplace safety, civil rights, or bodily autonomy. Today’s actions and words by Republican leadership put New Hampshire at a disadvantage in the eyes of the nation.”

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