CONCORD -- After 14 years in the state Department of Justice and the past three-and-a-half years as Attorney General, Michael Delaney today announced he won't seek reappointment when his term ends on March 31.
Delaney, 43, of Manchester, released a letter to Gov. Maggie Hassan in which he says he will return to private practice but remain on the job during an "appropriate" transition period.
He thanked both Hassan and former Gov. John Lynch, who appointed him attorney general in the summer of 2009, succeeding current U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who had resigned to run for the office.
It's unclear if Hassan was planning to renominate Delaney to a full, four-year term had he decided to seek reappointment.
He and the governor differ on a key issue: expanded gambling.
Hassan is strongly in favor, while Delaney has long been opposed.
Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice, speaking for Delaney, told the state Senate Ways and Means Committee in February that a casino would increase crime, gambling addiction and the potential for corruption.
Hassan is not expected to nominate a successor to Delaney at Wednesday's Executive Council meeting.
"The governor will be working to identify highly qualified candidates for this critical position as quickly as possible," said her spokesman, Marc Goldberg.
In a separate statement, Hassan said Delaney's "steady leadership of our justice system will be missed."
As Delaney, a Democrat, exits state service, he becomes part of the mix of speculation about those who may seek higher office in the future.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley said Delaney would be "a credible candidate for any office he chooses. His future is bright, he is young so he has plenty of time to decide if and when he runs for office."
The state Republican Party tried to link Delaney's departure to the gambling issue, specifically Hassan's inclusion of $80 million casino licensing application revenue in her proposed two-year budget.
In a statement, NHGOP chair Jennifer Horn said:
"The Attorney General's eleventh hour announcement that he will not seek reappointment when his term expires at the end of the month raises concerns about the actual reason for his abrupt retirement. After he announced his opposition to Maggie Hassan's disastrous state budget that relies on $80 million in non-existent and illegal gambling revenue, the governor refused to discuss his reappointment. There are serious questions about whether Governor Hassan decided to deny Attorney General Delaney another term because of his strong and principled rejection of her irresponsible policies. This type of shallow and vindictive political retribution indicates that Governor Hassan may be willing to engage in petty partisan politics to advance her agenda."
Buckley responded, "We thank the NHGOP for their support of Mike Delaney, someone we think would make a great Democratic candidate, possibly for the U.S. Senate in 2016," the final year of Ayotte's current term and the year she could be seeking reelection.
Goldberg of the governor's office added, "As the governor indicated in her statement, she believes Mike Delaney has been a strong attorney general and she would have been happy if he could have stayed on."