By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
HAMPTON – The state is mourning the loss of state Rep. Robert D. “Renny” Cushing, a self-described “aging revolutionary” and social justice crusader who died after a long battle with stage four prostate cancer. He was 69.
He leaves his wife, Kristie Conrad, and their three daughters.
On March 2, he announced he was stepping aside on a medical leave of absence from his leadership role as House Democratic Leader and state Rep. David Cote of Nashua was named to the acting position.
In his eighth term as a member of the House of Representatives, Cushing began his political actions as a member of the Clamshell Alliance which opposed the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in the 1970s.
He has been a crusader for many human rights causes over those years, and particularly so on issues related to the death penalty, despite the fact, his father was murdered.
He helped the effort to get the death penalty abolished in New Hampshire during the 2019-2020 legislative session, leading a successful effort to override the veto of Gov. Chris Sununu.
During this past legislative session, as Cushing was battling cancer, he fought Republican leadership on remote meetings and voting arguing House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to provide accommodations for 28 lawmakers with health concerns.
The case is still in the courts.
On his Twitter account, Cushing called himself a “fading romantic, an aging revolutionary,” and those who recall his leadership over the years had nothing but praise for him, many of whom were past and present lawmakers.
Jay Surdukowski wrote on Twitter as well to bid that Cushing “rest in peace” and called him a fighter for social justice to the end. “He will be sorely missed.”
Burt Cohen called him “one of the greatest humans I’ve ever known.” He said Cushing was at the vanguard of so many movements for justice. Smart, loving, driven by an unrelenting insistence on justice in so many areas. New Hampshire’s history has changed thanks to my friend. Now we have to keep it going.”
Senate President Chuck Morse issued the following statement today:
“I want to send my deepest condolences to Renny’s family. He was a tireless and passionate advocate for New Hampshire. His service to the General Court made a real difference and he will be greatly missed. Susan and I are keeping his family in our thoughts and prayers.”
Arnie Arnesen wrote on Twitter that Cushing “was my friend, my political soul mate, my confidant…the world has lost a man who knew the way and offered his life to help us find it with him. To say he will be missed does not do justice to our loss.”
Acting Democratic Leader Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua), joined by other members of Democratic leadership offered the following statements:
“The House, the Democratic Caucus and the people of New Hampshire today suffered an incalculable loss with the death of House Democratic Leader Renny Cushing.
“Renny never put himself first and that was never more obvious than in his valiant fight against cancer. When anyone else would have put aside all but personal concerns, Renny never retreated from devotion to the progressive causes that had been his lifeblood, or from his service to the people of New Hampshire and the institution of the House.
“One of Renny’s biggest accomplishments and a joy for colleagues in the House to witness, was abolishing the death penalty in New Hampshire. His bill HB 455 passed the House of Representatives on this day, March 7 in 2019. All who know him know that Renny’s timing is perpetually serendipitous.
“I want to also again thank his wonderful family for sharing him with us for all these years. All my love to them. He would want me to mention also our wonderful staff, who love him and whom he loved.
“He was a citizen of New Hampshire, but also a citizen of the World, who loved humanity both individually and in the abstract. He held no grudges but took no prisoners. He lived by the ideals of Justice and Mercy. He cannot be replaced. He was my friend before my Leader and became family to me.
I will miss him every day,” Cote said.
Acting Deputy Democratic Leader Mary Jane Wallner (D- Concord) continues: “In the decades I’ve known Renny Cushing, I have been inspired by his incredible passion for public service. A true public servant, he dedicated his entire life to the betterment of others. His spirit will live on through the compassionate policy he crafted to protect all Granite Staters and the unconditional kindness he instilled in each one of us, his friends.”
“New Hampshire has lost a lifelong, dedicated leader and passionate advocate. No one cared more deeply about our state and its people. We have lost Renny Cushing too soon, but his legacy will live on in our minds and in our hearts,” added Rep. Karen Ebel (D-New London). House Democratic Leader Pro Tempore.
“Renny Cushing has always been an advocate and ally for young people and the BIPOC community. He never shied away from a fight and worked tirelessly for our most vulnerable communities. I’m grateful to have been able to spend so much time with Renny and thank his family for sharing such an amazing soul with the legislature. As he would always say to me, ‘Siempe Pa’lante’ (always forward),” added Rep. Manny Espitia (D-Nashua), House Democratic Floor Leader.
Rep. Marjorie Smith (D-Durham), House Democratic Policy Leader, said, “Renny devoted his life to making the world better. He chose to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. Now we must be brave and follow that flame.”
“Renny advocated for the right issues, and for justice for all people, realizing so astutely that the stacks were against the BIPOC community and low-income persons, and yet persisting. I speak for all on the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee when I say that his love of people and determination for good has rubbed off on us over the years that we were blessed to work with him. We are forever indebted to his family for sharing him with us. I feel blessed that he is at peace and has left an amazing and beautiful life’s history that we can all be proud of,” concluded Rep. Linda Harriott-Gathright (D-Nashua), Ranking Democrat on House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry said: “I am saddened by the passing of Leader Cushing. He was highly respected amongst his peers in the House and throughout the State of New Hampshire. He was a passionate and dedicated public servant – never afraid to take on controversial issues for the sake of bettering this great state. It was an honor to serve alongside Leader Cushing, and his presence will be greatly missed by all who had the opportunity to know and work with him. On behalf of the House of Representatives and General Court staff, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to the Cushing family, their friends and loved ones during this difficult time.”
Gov. Chris Sununu issued the following news release:
“Renny Cushing served his community for decades in the New Hampshire House and made a lasting impact on the issues he cared deeply about,” said Gov. Chris Sununu. “My thoughts are with the Cushing family during this unimaginable time.”
Note: The Governor’s Office has communicated with the Chairman of the Hampton Board of Selectmen and the Governor has directed state flags in the Town of Hampton to fly at Half-Staff on the day of interment.