Remembering a woman of grace and good humor

Susan McLane, said the obituary, “fought to save the environment, preserving lakes and protecting wildlife.” There was, alas, one endangered species the veteran state senator from Concord could not save, despite her earnest efforts. If Susan McLane was not the last of the RINOS, she came very close.

“Well, I think that’s true,” she once said with her usual disarming candor, when asked if she was, indeed, what so many of her fellow Republicans had labeled her — a Republican In Name Only. Her party had grown too conservative for McLane, whose progressive politics more resembled Eleanor’s than Teddy Roosevelt’s. McLane, 75, died on Feb. 13 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

A New Hampshire legislator for a quarter-century, she stayed in the Republican Party until she discovered she was the only candidate on the Republican ticket she could vote for. She finally became a Democrat at the end of her career, but it is as a liberal Republican swimming against a conservative Republican tide that McLane will be remembered in New Hampshire politics.

Though not afraid to champion lost causes — her pursuit of a state income tax foremost among them — McLane enjoyed some significant legislative victories, including the Shoreline Protection Act and a law requiring insurance companies to cover mental illness.

She fought for the things she believed in and did not back down, no matter how many editorial cannonballs were fired at her. Though she was not deterred by the many “Broadbased Sue” bashings published in The Union Leader, she apparently paid close attention to them. She once told a columnist writing for that paper that Jim Finnegan, then the editorial writer for the Manchester daily, had referred to her “10 times” as a “rump-sprung Republican.”

“I have recently had a hip replaced,” she noted dryly. “And the thought of my rump springing is not something I find amusing.”

She took the rough and tumble of political battle in stride and was above the small-minded practice of some politicians of trying to punish offending journalists by not returning their phone calls.

Her efforts for many civic and charitable causes are too numerous to be mentioned here and have been well recounted in other publications. We would only extend our sympathies and best wishes to her family and her many lifelong friends and remind those yet practicing the honorable profession of politics that they should do more than fondly remember Sue McLane’s graciousness and good humor. They should emulate them.

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