NH Will Be Before Iowa In 2008

Jim Splaine
NH State Representative
Portsmouth & Newington
201 Oriental Gardens
Portsmouth, NH 03801
Telephone & FAX: (603) 436-0718
E-Mail: JimSplaine@aol.com

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws committee voted this week to hold a new election event between the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire First-In-The-Nation Presidential Primary in 2008.  That vote has yet to be ratified by the full DNC, so national Democrats still have a chance to come to their senses. 

What is likely to happen if they finalize those plans?  Well, I know something about keeping New Hampshire first - - maybe even more than some of the Washington-types know about trying to take it away.  I successfully sponsored several bills since 1975 to keep our lead-off status, including the most recent one signed by Governor John Lynch on April 27th.   I've been in this fight for over 30 years.  And I know we're a step ahead of our national counterparts.

Our state law requires - - mandates -- our Secretary of State to move our primary date "...7 days or more..." ahead of any "similar election."  But that law also allows him to move our primary to any date he feels is necessary in order to protect the tradition of our lead-off status.  That means he has all the flexibility he needs to move ahead of Iowa, and to make our primary the first event of the 2008 presidential election season.

If the Iowa Caucus is set for a Monday at about the middle of January of 2008, national Democrats might be assuming that the NH Primary will be set for a Tuesday eight days later.  That's how it's worked since the early 1970s.  However, if the DNC tries to put another caucus squeezed in somewhere after Iowa and before New Hampshire, our Secretary of State will have little choice than to set our primary date on the Tuesday six days before Iowa.

Further, the machinery given to the Secretary of State under our laws doesn't allow him to make any agreement or arrangement with the national parties.  He must set the date one week ahead, so he is obligated to wait until the late fall of 2007, perhaps as late as November or December of that year, to formally set our date.  He must wait until all the other states -- not the parties, but the states --  have set their election dates.

Then he responds.  Under our state law, he needs no approval from anyone to set the New Hampshire Primary date.  He needs not ask leaders of any of the political parties on the national or state level as to when they prefer the date to be.  New Hampshire taxpayers pay for our primary, so it can be held whenever we wish.

Therefore, our Secretary of State is likely to set the date for the 2008 NH Primary at a time very late in the process, giving no other state including Iowa the opportunity to re-adjust their date.  Since New Hampshire is a small state and we can assemble an election quickly, there will be little warning to other states when we move up our date.  We're guaranteed, in that way, to be first.

There is no way New Hampshire will lose our traditional lead-off status, and all that the vote of the DNC rules and bylaws committee does is make the national Democrats look bad.  As a Democrat, I'm embarrassed by our Washington crew.  It's obvious that the party bosses want to control more of the process for the selection of future presidential nominees, but we won't let that happen.

If the Democratic National Committee continues to play with the election schedule, candidates of both parties are likely not to know the exact dates of the election cycle until late in the fall of 2007, the time when New Hampshire's primary date will be confirmed.  The DNC can end the confusion now by recognizing the value of the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, and calling off any further attempts to jump others ahead. They should cease fire.