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State Rep. Neal Kurk will not seek 17th term

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 17. 2018 9:34PM
Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare (UNION LEADER FILE)

CONCORD — A recognized expert on the Byzantine process that is New Hampshire’s state budget and a zealous defender of personal privacy rights is leaving a large void after deciding he will not seek a 17th two-year term in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, made his voluntary retirement in signature fashion with no public statement at all, instead letting some of his critics celebrate on social media that he won’t be back in 2019. Kurk had his fans and foes across the ideological spectrum.

“This is wonderful news. Neal Kurk has served in the Senate and the House for a long time. He has held a strong line of far-right conservatism that has seen him block even the most basic legislation to fund needed human services and infrastructure policy,” posted Progressive Action New Hampshire in response.

Meanwhile, there were those on the right who condemned Kurk for too often making compromises over budgets with past Democratic governors and for fighting some of their pet projects.

Kurk played a significant role in defeating one of Gov. Chris Sununu’s top priorities, education savings accounts to let parents get scholarships for sending their child to a private or parochial school.

A defender of local control, Kurk charged the legislation would lead to a massive property tax increase in future years for those paying taxes to support public schools.

Kurk could not be reached for comment but former House Chief of Staff Greg Moore said he spoke with Kurk Friday night.

“I didn’t perceive this to be permanent; he talked about coming back at some point,” Moore said.

The state director of the fiscally conservative Americans for Prosperity, Moore often tangled with Kurk on financial matters.

“Neal Kurk represents the best of our citizen Legislature. He gave far more than he took and he treated everyone with dignity, respect and fairness,” Moore said.

“The House is a better place for having Neal and we all will have to do a little more to replace him next term. We all will find it hard to replace his passion, his principled approach and the thinking man’s game he brought to the legislative process.”

Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, a former longtime House member himself, said you could work with Kurk

“Neal and I were freshmen legislators together decades ago. I sat next to him on Appropriations Committee for a couple of years and co-sponsored several bills. We rarely agreed,” Buckley said.

Along with his state budget acumen, Kurk became known as someone who fought efforts to invade personal privacy.

He authored the state law that allows residents to withhold their Social Security numbers and other information from being on driver licenses.

Kurk was one of the principal reasons New Hampshire was one of the last states in the country to adopt the Real ID after the Obama administration threatened to prevent residents here from being able to board international flights unless the state relented.

As with any state budget leader, Kurk had his losses as well as great successes.

In the spring of 2017, he suffered the embarrassment of having the proposed House budget rejected by the membership when Democrats wanting more spending conspired with conservatives who wanted less to produce the stalemate.

Ultimately, Senate Republican leaders cooperated with Kurk so he could have a major role at the final bargaining table and be part of the final state budget compromise that bore some of his priorities.

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