Leaders in the New Hampshire House announced Monday that a member of the near-evenly divided chamber passed away late last week.
Colleagues and friends said Representative Hoy Robert “Roger” Menear III, a Democrat from Lee, served with integrity and will be missed.
House Speaker Sherman A. Packard, a Republican from Londonderry, formally shared the somber news with members in a message Monday afternoon, and the House clerk updated the chamber’s roster to reflect Menear’s death.
Packard said he would notify members about a funeral or memorial service once that information becomes available. He urged lawmakers to keep Menear’s loved ones in their thoughts and prayers.
House Democratic Leader Representative Matthew B. Wilhelm of Manchester said Menear was a valuable member of the Democratic caucus and will be missed by colleagues from both parties.
“He leaves behind a legacy of service to the Granite State,” Wilhelm said. “Our hearts are with his family, friends, and constituents.”
Menear, who previously served in the House when his district included parts of both Lee and Barrington, was elected last fall to his second non-consecutive term. He ran for office again at the urging of Representative Dennis Malloy, a Democrat from Greenland, who said the two met while campaigning in 2012. Over the years, they formed a friendship linked to their public service, Malloy said.
“I miss the conversations we had,” Malloy said. “He was a great sounding board for me in terms of how to work in the House, to run ideas by each other. And he was a voracious reader.”
Menear’s well-read status didn’t just make him a great conversationalist; it also reflected the thoroughness with which he approached his work, Malloy said.
“When Roger looked at something, he wanted to look at it in its entirety and understand it completely,” Malloy said.
Menear kept busy serving financial clients and earned his reputation as a man of integrity, Malloy added.
Representative Thomas Southworth, a Democrat from Dover, said Menear volunteered the use of his condo in summer 2022 so several local state representatives in Strafford County could meet to introduce themselves and educate voters about their newly formed legislative district.
“Roger was a valued member of the team and offered practical suggestions and kept the group on track as needed,” Southworth said.
“Roger sat behind me in the House and we often had lunch in a small group,” Southworth added. “I appreciated his knowledge, directness, dedication, and wry humor. He shared the values and goals of Democrats and took his role as a state representative seriously.”
Some lawmakers said they learned on Friday of Menear’s passing. The official announcements did not disclose the date or precise cause of his death. Efforts to reach his family members or a personal representative were not immediately successful.
Vacancies in the House due to death or resignation are an inevitable factor in the 400-member chamber. Menear’s death is the first of the 2023-2024 term. By contrast, there were four members who died during the first year of the 2021-2022 term.
Extra attention has been focused this year on each and every seat because of the historically narrow margin between the parties.
Menear’s death comes as Republicans cling to an extremely narrow advantage. As of Monday, there were 198 Republicans, 195 Democrats, and three independents seated in the House, with four vacancies, according to the clerk’s official tally.
One of the vacancies will be filled by Representative-elect Paige Beauchemin, a Democrat from Nashua, after her win in last week’s special election is certified. Two more will be filled with special elections slated for Jan. 23.
Democrats would need to win both of those special elections, plus a subsequent contest for Menear’s seat, to take an outright lead in the House. The two elections on Jan. 23 could coincide with the New Hampshire presidential primary, which would likely give the Republicans a boost in turnout, since the GOP contest is largely viewed as more competitive than the Democratic presidential contest.
Even with the partisan balance in the House as it is, leaders of both parties are keeping a close eye on attendance — only representatives who show up can cast votes in the House, and two of the three independents are former Democrats who have signaled plans to continue casting votes aligned with their progressive views.