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N.H. Attorney General Michael Delaney stepping down

CONCORD, N.H. — Attorney General Michael Delaney is stepping down after 14 years in public service to return to private practice, he told Governor Maggie Hassan Tuesday.

Speculation in recent weeks was that Hassan wanted to ­appoint her own attorney general, but her spokesman, Marc Goldberg, stressed Tuesday that it was Delaney’s decision to step down and that Hassan ‘‘would have been happy if he would have stayed on.’’

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Asked whether Hassan has a nominee in mind, Goldberg said only that ‘‘she’s working as quickly as possible to identify highly qualified candidates.’’

Delaney agreed to stay on to help smooth the transition. His term was scheduled to end March 31. He did not indicate what firm he may be joining.

Delaney, 43, served in the ­attorney general’s office from 1999 to 2006, when he left to become Governor John Lynch’s legal counsel. When Attorney General Kelly Ayotte stepped down in 2009 to run for the US Senate, Lynch appointed ­Delaney to succeed her.

‘‘Through nearly a decade and a half, Mike Delaney has continuously protected and ­advanced the cause of justice for the people of New ­Hampshire,’’ Hassan said.

Delaney locked horns last session with the Republican majority over the independence of his office and his insistence that members of a House committee stop questioning state child care workers about cases. Delaney advised the workers not to respond to the panel.

Former House speaker Bill O’Brien accused Delaney of ‘‘playing politics.’’

O’Brien also wanted to give the Legislature power to order Delaney to join lawsuits brought by other states. ­Delaney told him it was unconstitutional.

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