Stephanie Hyland, a first-term state representative from Francestown, has resigned her seat in the N.H. House, vaguely citing a “mishandling of this legislative session” in a letter addressed to Gov. Chris Sununu.
Those conditions “made it unachievable to safely and morally perform the duties of this position,” Hyland, a Democrat whose 10-town district also includes Antrim, Bennington, Greenfield and Hancock, said in her resignation letter Monday.
“It was an honor and a privilege to work for my neighbors of Hillsborough County District 38 and I thank all Granite Staters for their continuous work,” she wrote.
Hyland, a small-business owner who moved to Francestown in June 2019, did not respond to requests by phone and email Monday for more information.
A West Virginia native, Hyland was a special-education teacher in Massachusetts before relocating to the Granite State, she told The Sentinel previously. She then opened a yoga studio, Live Free Yoga, in Epping.
Hyland, who was 33 as of October 2020, touted her special-education experience and her relative youth during her N.H. House campaign, saying she’d bring a unique perspective to Concord. Her top legislative priorities included improving mental health, especially among kids, increasing state funding for public schools and addressing climate change, she said at the time.
Hyland and Jim Creighton, an Antrim Republican, won the Hillsborough County district — which also covers Greenville, Hillsborough, Lyndeborough, Wilton and Windsor — later that year, ousting incumbent Rep. Jim Bosman, a Democrat. (The other incumbent, Rep. Chris Balch, did not run for re-election.)
Her resignation leaves open a highly competitive House seat: The two-seat Hillsborough 38th has been shared by both parties on three occasions in the past decade.
Creighton, a former U.S. Army colonel, topped a four-candidate field in November 2020 with 6,520 votes. Hyland got 6,161 votes to finish second, narrowly edging out Republican Riché Colcombe (6,091).
With her resignation Monday, Hyland became the fourth lawmaker — all of them young — to leave the 400-seat House’s Democratic caucus in recent months.
Denny Ruprecht, of Landaff, stepped down in December after representing Grafton County’s 3rd District since 2019. Ruprecht, the state’s youngest lawmaker when he was elected, said in a Facebook post he had moved to Vermont and is engaged to be married.
Rep. Ellen Read, of Newmarket, dropped her Democratic affiliation and became an independent that month over ethics concerns she had with another lawmaker in the party caucus, she said. Read said Monday her offers to continue caucusing with the Democrats have been rejected.
Another former Democrat, Rep. Tony Labranche, of Amherst, announced last week he’d also become an independent, claiming the state party’s leadership has too much power and citing concerns with a “broken” two-party system and President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic. Both Read and Labranche — the N.H. House’s youngest member — have been reliable liberal votes, according to Citizens Count, a nonpartisan political research organization.
N.H. Democratic Party spokesman Colin Booth downplayed those losses, noting that multiple Republicans left their own caucus last year, including Rep. William Marsh, a Wolfeboro ophthalmologist who switched parties due to the GOP’s resistance to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Booth said he’s confident that Democrats will hold onto Hyland’s old seat, adding that party officials are already eyeing several people to possibly replace her.
“I don’t think it makes us more vulnerable,” he said of Hyland’s resignation. “We have a really robust candidate recruitment process.”
That vacancy won’t be filled until the general election this coming November, though, when all state representatives will be on the ballot, according to Assistant Secretary of State Paula Penney.
Under state law, any special election must be held by March 15 of the electoral cycle’s second year. But Hyland’s departure came too close to that deadline for state officials to approve a special election and then for primary and general elections to be held, Penney said.