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New Hampshire Republicans say no to DNC primary demands

  • Gov. Chris Sununu. (Concord Monitor - Elizabeth Frantz)

New Hampshire Bulletin
Published: 12/6/2022 10:45:40 PM
Modified: 12/6/2022 10:45:45 PM

Editor’s Note: This story was first published on New Hampshire Bulletin.

New Hampshire Republican leaders said they won’t comply with demands a key Democratic National Committee panel outlined Friday as a condition of allowing the state to go second in the next Democratic presidential primary.

Republican leaders said New Hampshire will preserve its long-held tradition of holding the nation’s first presidential primary — even if that defies the calendar approved by the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Friday. That means the state would hold an “outlaw” primary, in the eyes of the DNC, and face consequences like losing its delegates at the Democratic National Convention.

Republicans — who control the New Hampshire House, Senate, and governor’s office — said changing state law was out of the question.

“New Hampshire will not be blackmailed by Joe Biden and his political hacks in the Democrat Party,” said Gov. Chris Sununu in a statement Monday.

According to the schedule recommended Friday, South Carolina would vote first on Feb. 3, 2024, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada on Feb. 6. Georgia would vote on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb. 27. That schedule has to be approved by the full DNC when it meets next in early 2023.

In order to secure that second-place slot, the DNC panel recommended, New Hampshire lawmakers would have to overhaul state voting laws by Feb. 1. That would include repealing its 1975 law that requires the state to schedule its primary seven days earlier than any other state. And the state would have to expand access to early voting, according to the DNC panel. Republican leaders would have to signal their willingness to make those changes in a letter due Jan. 5, 2023. If they don’t, the DNC would not endorse a New Hampshire primary scheduled before March 5, 2024.

Other early states would be required to adjust state laws to secure their spot in the lineup too, including Nevada and Georgia.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican, echoed Sununu’s rejection of the DNC’s terms. He said he would not write such a letter, nor did he believe any Republican would.

“I don’t think there’s anybody in the Legislature — Republican or Democrat — that’s going to want to repeal that law or change our first-in-the-nation status,” he said in an interview. Both Democrats and Republicans have been adamant about preserving the state’s No. 1 spot. Bradley said he expects a robust Republican primary but that the change proposed by the DNC panel is of concern.

“If the Democrats are going to do what they’re threatening to do, it undermines the primary,” he said. “Of course, I worry about it.”

Responding to the DNC’s request, House Majority Leader Jason Osborne had a short statement: “Yes, I have a letter for the DNC. Looking forward to sending it,” he said. He did not elaborate.

While there’s no state mechanism for holding separate primaries for Democrats and Republicans, it’s up to each party to determine how it selects its nominee, according to Anna Brown, executive director of Citizens Count, a nonprofit policy analysis organization.

“This is a weird relationship between state government, state parties, and the national parties,” Brown said. “So New Hampshire can go ahead and hold a primary if it wants to, but the national party doesn’t have to acknowledge that and consider how New Hampshire voters voted when they choose who their ultimate nominee is going to be.”

Other political observers say the DNC could take additional steps to deter candidates from filing in New Hampshire, such as barring them from the debate stage or withdrawing financial support.

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