A candidate for State Republican Committee chairman is calling for the removal of Rep. Laura Pantelakos as chair of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee after he said she berated voters during a hearing on the "Stand Your Ground" bill on Tuesday.
Andrew Hemingway, one of three candidates for NHGOP chairman, issued a statement on Wednesday night saying that Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth, told some voters, "Show some respect for the members of this committee. We are forced to sit here and suffer through this…I am not going to tolerate this!”
Hemingway criticized Pantelakos for speaking this way to New Hampshire voters who had traveled from as far away as Coos County to address House Bill 135, a measure that seeks to rescind a person's right to use deadly force to protect themselves in a public place if they feel threatened.
“I was at the hearing and hundreds of citizens sacrificed time from their jobs and families to attend this hearing and were disrespected by the comments of the chairwoman. I am calling for her immediate removal as Chair of the committee. If the burden of listening to voters is too great for the chairwoman, than it is incumbent upon Speaker (Terie) Norelli to remove her as chair and replace her with one that respects the voice of the people," said Hemingway in a prepared statement.
On Thursday morning, Hemingway said Pantelakos demonstrated a lack of tolerance for voters who are opposed to the legislation and said her attitude reflects the new New Hampshire House Democratic Party leadership headed by Speaker Norelli, D-Portsmouth.
“She was clearly agitated and she sort of had an outburst,” Hemingway said of Pantelakos. “It was just very disrespectful to the citizens who came to that meeting.”
When contacted on Thursday afternoon at the Legislative Office Building, Pantelakos said Hemingway's assertion that she had a lack of tolerance for some of the voters who testified "was a bare faced lie.
“I asked them to have some respect for the people who were testifying before the committee," Pantelakos said. "I had a very hostile crowd."
Pantelakos said she made the statement that Hemingway referenced when some voters in Representatives Hall applauded when other voters who were opposed to House Bill 135 spoke, which she said is not permitted during committee hearings.
“People that are that angry with rights certainly couldn’t see any good in me,” Pantelakos said. “I could have closed that hearing at any time and told them to come back next week, but I didn’t do that.”
She said the committee had 68 speakers and the hearing lasted for 5-1/2 hours.
“Anybody who comes to a committee hearing is allowed to speak whether you agree with what they have to say or not,” she said. “I did the best I could.
“Every card that we had in front of us we called the name off and they were allowed to come to the microphone and speak their piece,” she added. “I think that we tried very hard to accommodate everybody.”
Pantelakos said the committee will hold an executive session in the next week or so to vote on the legislation and she has no idea how the panel's 11 Democrats and nine Republicans will vote.