New Hampshire lawmaker, known for fiery speeches, dies at 65

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Steve Vaillancourt, a 10-term state representative known for his colorful floor speeches, has died at age 65, lawmakers said.

“He was a spicy representative whose floor speeches kept us spellbound and amused,” Republican Rep. Neal Kurk said Monday before dedicating a moment of silence in Vaillancourt’s honor.

The time and cause of Vaillancourt’s death weren’t immediately known. Lawmakers asked the police to check on Vaillancourt on Monday morning when he didn’t show up for a House Finance Committee budget hearing, Kurk said. The police found him dead in his home.

Vaillancourt had been suffering health problems and recently had a heart-related surgery, Kurk said. His colleagues mourned the news of his death during Monday’s finance meeting.

Vaillancourt, a Republican from Manchester, built a reputation as an outspoken lawmaker unafraid to wade into controversy. In 2012, he was kicked out of the House chamber after shouting the Nazi salute “Sieg Heil” when then-Speaker Bill O’Brien, a fellow Republican, shut down debate on a bill. In 2007, he accused his former roommate and friend Ray Buckley, then a candidate for chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, of formerly possessing child pornography. The attorney general found no evidence to support his claim.

Before becoming a Republican, Vaillancourt ran and served as a Democrat and as a Libertarian.

During House debates, Vaillancourt often would deliver passionate floor speeches on the issues of the day, from marijuana legalization to a ban on election ballot selfies. He was a strong proponent of legislation aimed at ending animal cruelty.

“We will remember Steve as an outstanding orator and a man who was certainly dedicated to his principles,” Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper said.

Vaillancourt grew up in Vermont and attended Vergennes Union High School. He is survived by his brother, Jasper said.

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