One of the most colorful political figures in recent New Hampshire history was found dead Monday, leading the state’s political community to share stories on social media and to hold a moment of silence at the State House in Concord.
Steve Vaillancourt, 65, was recently elected to his 10th term as a state representative from Manchester. He was found dead in his apartment after state police conducted a wellness check. Recently he told colleagues he had heart problems.
Republican Neal Kurk of Weare, N.H., another longtime state representative, remembered Vaillancourt as “a spicy representative whose floor speeches kept us spellbound and amused.”
Vaillancourt was elected to the New Hampshire House as a Democrat, a Libertarian, and a Republican, which was his party since 2006. New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said he believes Vaillancourt was the only person in state history elected under all three party labels.
While his party changed, one thing did not: Vallaincourt generally found a way to inject himself into the political debate of the day — or create controversy of his own. He had various platforms from which to make himself heard: the floor of the House chamber, where he was a frequent orator; his blog (which he often wrote at the public library); and his cable access television show.
In January 2007 Vaillancourt’s former roommate, Raymond Buckley, was on the verge of becoming the state Democratic Party chairman, and the first openly gay state party chair in the nation. Vaillancourt created a stir by publicly accusing Buckley of having once possessed child pornography when they lived together. After an investigation, then-New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, later a Republican US senator, said there was no evidence the allegation was true. Buckley was elected, and the accusation and aftermath become a segment on “This American Life,” a public radio broadcast.
Years later, Vaillancourt caused a hullabaloo on the floor of the New Hampshire House when, in protesting the House speaker’s decision to limit debate on a particular bill, he declared “Sieg Heil” — the Nazi salute. He was immediately ejected from the chamber.
And during the 2014 state elections, Vaillancourt again stirred controversy when he wrote on his blog that a female candidate for Congress was “ugly as sin.” A day later he acknowledged such language was sexist.
At the State House, Vaillancourt supported efforts to repeal the death penalty and to legalize same-sex marriage, marijuana, and expanded gambling. He loved World War II history books and television shows. He also had unusual interests: He used his blog to track those who abused the speed limit on highways and once compiled a book of his 5,000 unanswered questions from the O.J. Simpson murder trial.
“We will remember Steve as an outstanding orator and a man who was certainly dedicated to his principles,” New Hampshire House Speaker Shawn Jasper said in a statement.Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. James Pindell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell. Click here to subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics.