NEW CASTLE — Mark Connolly, 63, a past Democratic candidate for governor and former state securities regulation director, died Saturday in California following a sudden illness.
According to friends of the family, Connolly, a New Castle resident, was out west on a hiking trip when he became ill.
He died a few days later, friends said.
In 2016, Connolly ran for governor in the Democratic primary won by Colin Van Ostern of Concord.
He finished in third place.
Connolly had served in the New Hampshire House and later became a deputy secretary of state.
Secretary of State Bill Gardner named him as director of securities regulation, running the office that supervised all financial advisers and the sale of securities in New Hampshire.
Former State Sen. and Rep. Jim Splaine of Portsmouth knew Connolly for decades.
“I have known him since the mid-1970s when as a student at Dartmouth he became a New Hampshire state representative. We were good friends and met often about all things political,” Splaine said.
Connolly held the securities post from 2002 until he retired from it in 2010.
While there he oversaw cases against Tyco International, Ameriprise, ING, Pennichuck Corp., Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and UBS, netting more than $55 million in fines and investor restitution.
After leaving state service, Connolly wrote a book titled “Cover-Up” about the state’s handling of the Financial Resources Mortgage scandal in which investors lost up to $80 million they had sunk into a Ponzi scheme.
Connolly said state government under then-Gov. John Lynch had failed to do enough to prevent the Ponzi scheme from spreading.
Connolly earlier worked in private financial services for First Chicago, Chubb Life Insurance, Fleet Bank and Wellington Management in the area of investment management.
At the time of his death, Connolly was running the investment firm he’d founded, New Castle Investment Advisors, based in Portsmouth.
Rep. Chris Pappas, D-NH, also knew him well.
“I’m heartbroken by the sudden passing of my friend Mark Connolly,” Pappas said in a statement. “He was a dedicated public servant, an active member of the larger New Hampshire community, and a beloved husband to his fiance Terri. My heart goes out to his family & loved ones as they deal with this profound loss.”
In state government Connolly served while Republicans at times controlled the Legislature and the corner office.
Dave Wihby was deputy labor commissioner at that time and a former Manchester alderman and school board member.
“Mark truly cared about New Hampshire, great guy,” Wihby said.
Connolly was the former chairman of the New Castle Planning Board and a member of the Board of Trustees of Strawbery Banke and the Portsmouth Athenaeum.
He served on the boards of the New Hampshire Child and Family Services, the New Hampshire Audubon, and the Greater Manchester Development Commission.
Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley also was in the House before becoming the party’s head.
“Mark was a brilliant and compassionate man for more than four decades. He gave his all to make New Hampshire better. He will be missed terribly,” Buckley said in a statement.
Huck Montgomery was a union organizer who helped Connolly with his campaign for governor.
“Mark stood up to corrupt executives who stole hundreds of millions of dollars. Bad guys went to jail because of the work Mark did. There are plenty of people in politics who complain about the system being rigged, but Mark actually did something about it,” Montgomery said.
“He saw a corrupt system ripping people off, and he became a public servant in order to make the world a fairer, better place. It was a privilege to know him and to work for him.”