Around New England

Despite California’s Move, NH’s “First-In-Nation” Primary Safe, Says Secretary of State

December 28, 2018

Now that California has officially moved its presidential primary election up three months — from June (in 2016) to March 3, 2020 — New Hampshire’s secretary of state intends to protect the Granite State’s “first-in-the-nation” primary status. NH has protected its first-in-the-nation presidential primary status since 1920.

In making its presidential primary March 3, 2020, California will share the day with eight other states’ primaries on what is known as “Super Tuesday.”

In an article in the Nashua Telegraph, NH Secretary of State William (Bill) M. Gardner said he has the ultimate authority to set the state’s primary election date.

“There have been all kinds of different attempts by states to interfere with this tradition through the years,” Gardner told the Telegraph. “This cycle will mark the 100th anniversary of us being first. We’re not going to just give it up to some other state that has more people, or more money, or more clout.”

When asked by the Telegraph about national news reports claiming the state’s primary is slated for February 11, 2020, or less than a month before Super Tuesday, Gardner was not phased. 

“They didn’t get that from me. I’ve never wanted to set a date and then have to change it,” he told the paper.

The Telegraph said Gardner could move the primary to as early as December 2019.

“It is hard to say,” Gardner told the Telegraph. “I do have the authority to make it that early.”

California meanwhile is trying to capitalize on its huge population and large number of electoral votes. Compared to NH’s 1.3 million people and 4 electoral college votes, California, with over 40 million people and 55 electoral college votes, believes it deserves more attention from presidential candidates campaigning for the country’s highest office.

“The voters of California deserve a larger role in selecting the nominees of both parties,” California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla told the Associated Press.

But the AP notes that only the most well-heeled candidates might be able to compete in California.

“Strategists estimate it could cost at least $5 million for a candidate to compete in California, an amount that could be prohibitive for all but the best-funded contenders. Nascent campaigns are asking themselves if they should gamble on California,” the AP wrote.

Less well-financed candidates who have shown well in a small-state primary in which they can afford to campaign have used such success to build their campaign coffers as they seek their party’s nomination through the months-long primary process.

New Hampshire has seen a significant decline in recent campaign cycles in what is known as “retail politics,” a term that describes when candidates attend small events, including home gatherings, to meet, greet, and solicit donations from, local supporters.

While Gardner recalls in the Telegraph article that “Jimmy Carter spent the night in 70 different homes throughout” his 1976 NH campaign for the Democratic Party nomination, Donald Trump only held a few large rallies in the state in 2015-16 and did not even spend one overnight there. Social media and other online tools in part have increased candidates’ visibility to voters without the need of door-to-door visits and local newspaper endorsements.

NH state law says the presidential primary “shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a date selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election.”








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