New Hampshire House Speaker Died From COVID-19, Ruling Finds

Dick Hinch, 71, became speaker just last week after Republicans won the House majority in November's elections.

New Hampshire House Speaker Dick Hinch’s death this week was a result of COVID-19, the state’s chief medical examiner ruled Thursday.

New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announced Hinch’s cause of death, as determined by an autopsy, with the consent of the speaker’s family. Hinch died Wednesday, just a week after the 71-year-old Republican was sworn in as speaker. The GOP took over control of the 400-member House from Democrats in November’s elections

“During this difficult time, the family has requested that their privacy continue to be respected,” MacDonald’s office said in a brief statement.

Hinch’s office did not initially disclose his cause of death or any other details.

“He was a loving husband, father, family man, and veteran who devoted his life to public service,” the office said.

Though it’s unclear how Hinch contracted the virus, health officials confirmed earlier this month that an outbreak of coronavirus cases occurred among Republican members of New Hampshire’s House following an indoor caucus gathering they held late last month at which many attendees were not wearing masks.

Hinch faced criticism from Democrats when the news of the outbreak first broke.

“We know from past sessions many members of the Republican caucus do not take COVID-19 seriously,” former Democratic state Rep. Steve Shurtleff, whose term just ended, said at the time. “Shame on Rep. Dick Hinch and other members of Republican leadership for putting politics before the lives of those who chose to serve in our volunteer Legislature.”

Hinch offered little comment when news of the outbreak surfaced, saying, “We’re dealing with private and personal health information.”

Hinch’s death comes as New Hampshire, like the rest of the U.S., experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases. The state reported 969 new cases on Wednesday, a 74% increase from the average two weeks earlier. Hinch represented part of New Hampshire’s Hillsborough County, which currently has the state’s highest rate of coronavirus cases.

Republican Sherman Packard will serve as acting speaker until a full House vote is taken on Hinch’s successor.

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