New Hampshire Democratic Party headquarters on State Street in Concord. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)
The Democratic National Committee’s Rules and Bylaws Committee will wait until after this year’s November midterm elections to recommend which states should lead the presidential primary process, the committee told states this weekend. The delay came as a surprise to political observers, who had expected the committee to issue a final recommendation as early as this Saturday.
In a letter sent to DNC members Saturday and obtained by the Bulletin, DNC chairman Jason Rae said postponing the decision is “the best way to move forward” for the committee. Rae did not elaborate on why DNC leadership made the decision.
The news prompted accusations from New Hampshire’s Republican Party that the decision was made to shield New Hampshire Democrats such as Sen. Maggie Hassan from potential blowback should the committee recommend removing New Hampshire from its first-in-the-nation primary status.
The committee has been meeting for weeks to decide whether to rearrange its early nominating calendar for president ahead of the 2024 election. That calendar has long featured Iowa, which holds caucuses, as the first nominating state and New Hampshire as the first primary state. But amid some concern over a lack of diversity in those two states, as well as a highly publicized systemic breakdown during the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses, the DNC’s application process has received renewed attention this year.
In June, the Rules and Bylaws Committee heard presentations from 17 states, each making a pitch to be one of the first five states in the nominating calendar. New Hampshire’s delegation, which included Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, brought gift bags and argued that the state has proven itself an efficient elections operator that forces candidates to interact with individual voters. Hassan and Shaheen also said that a decision to take away New Hampshire’s lead position could hurt Hassan’s re-election chances this November – if Granite Staters blamed Hassan for the decision.
In a memo to Rules and Bylaws Committee members sent Saturday, committee co-chairs Minyon Moore and Jim Roosevelt said the committee was still in the process of vetting bids from the 17 states and has sent certain states “several final but critical questions regarding election administration and feasibility in their states.”
“As we mentioned last week, we continue to be very pleased with the progress applicants are making on answering these questions,” Moore and Roosevelt wrote.
Roosevelt and Moore did not set a specific date by which the Rules and Bylaws Committee would make its recommendation and did not explain why it decided to move it to after the election. According to DNC rules, any recommendation by the committee would need to be approved by the full DNC for a vote, “which DNC leadership has assured us they will make happen as soon after the midterm elections as is possible,” Moore and Roosevelt wrote.
Any final decision by the DNC to topple New Hampshire’s position could create headaches for the state. State law requires the secretary of state to set the date of the calendar earlier than any other state. And both parties’ primary elections have been traditionally held the same day. The Republican National Committee already voted in April to affirm the positions of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada in 2024 as the first, second, third, and fourth nominating states, respectively.
New Hampshire Republicans have criticized the deliberations from national Democrats and argued the delay announced Saturday was a political decision.
“This has everything to do with protecting Maggie Hassan’s re-election,” wrote New Hampshire Republican Party Executive Director Elliot Gault on Twitter Saturday. “(The GOP) has already set their calendar keeping NH first.”
New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley has rebuffed suggestions that the primary is in trouble. “Elliot, don’t be a troll,” Buckley replied to Gault on Twitter.
“Granite Staters have demonstrated time and again that presidential candidates, no matter who they are, where they come from, or how much money they have, will get a fair shot here,” Buckley said in a statement Monday. “I have the utmost confidence that we will retain our status as first-in-the-nation.”
Gov. Chris Sununu, meanwhile, has taken a more collaborative view, saying in a press conference Wednesday that he was “firmly with” Buckley on the question of the primary.
“The rest of America should really want us to keep the first-in-the-nation primary, because it’s New Hampshire that constantly re-instills integrity in the system after states like Iowa screwed up, frankly,” Sununu, a Republican, said.
He added: “It’s not about popularity. It’s who goes out and engages the voters the best at the most real way on a constituent one-on-one level.”
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