As sponsor of the original 1975 law that first put into our state statutes the provisions protecting the lead-off status of the New Hampshire First-In-The-Nation Presidential Primary, as well as updates to that law as recently as 1999 and April of this year, I would like to offer my thoughts concerning your election schedule decision-making.
I would like to offer a win-win solution to the dilemma currently facing the Democratic National Committee. My solution is simple, but I think it accomplishes several things.
First, let's continue to recognize that the Iowa Caucus will be the first political party delegate-nominating event for 2008, as it has been for 30 years.
Second, let's also recognize that the New Hampshire First-In-The-Nation Presidential Primary will the first real election event, as it has been for almost 100 years and which is protected by our state law. Both of these lead-off events have worked well for decades.
Third, I suggest that you consider recognizing a caucus in the District of Columbia. That caucus could be scheduled a few days or a couple of weeks before the Iowa Caucus, or put in between the Iowa Caucus, which is traditionally held on a Monday and is tentatively scheduled for mid-January of 2008, and the New Hampshire Primary, which is traditionally held on the Tuesday eight days after the Iowa Caucus. Personally, I believe a DC Caucus would also highlight the importance of giving full voting rights to our citizens in that city, and this would be a way for the Democratic National Committee to focus attention to that cause.
Fourth, I suggest that you spread out the rest of the delegate-selection events beginning two weeks after the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, and reduce the "front-loading" that has occurred during the past two or three presidential election cycles.
Fifth and finally, I urge you to work with the Republican National Committee and the National Secretary of States Association to evaluate the scheduling process for primaries and caucuses in 2012. The National Secretary of States Association already has proposed an arrangement, also endorsed by the Jimmy Carter Commission, which would continue to recognize Iowa and New Hampshire in their traditional lead-off roles, and encourage a series of regional primaries throughout the country in the several months following New Hampshire.
I think my proposal could be a solution to the confusion that otherwise would be created if the Democratic National Committee tries to further revamp the 2008 presidential nominating calendar at this late date. That confusion could result in New Hampshire having to jump its tentatively scheduled presidential primary to the day after the Iowa Caucus, or the week before. Such a late-in-the-process scheduling adjustment would not be good for Democratic or Republican candidates.
Under our state law, our Secretary of State cannot make an agreement with any of the national parties ahead of time as to when the date for our primary will be. He must wait until November or December of 2007 to see when the scheduled events in all the other states are set, then enact our state law requiring him to set it "...7 days or more..." before a "similar event," which is up to him to interpret. He has full authority and flexibility to do what he feels is necessary to protect New Hampshire's traditional lead-off role. We have given his office the tools he needs to respond to any threat, and since New Hampshire taxpayers pay for our primary, we can hold it when we wish, and I am confident candidates of both parties will come to meet with voters here.
The problem has never been that Iowa has the first caucus and New Hampshire has the first primary. The problem is the front-loading of the schedule following New Hampshire, where so many states have election events one after the other - - sometimes with three or four events scattered around the country a week - - hardly allowing the candidates to take a breath, and not contributing to positive debate and voter involvement.
A lot has been said about "diversity" in the election process. The United States has vast diversity. New Hampshire and Iowa are part of that diversity. Both states are "American," and the other 48 states can properly lay claim to the same title.
In New Hampshire, we have extraordinary diversity of economy, religions, nationalities, education, wealth, ages, and geography. We have larger cities and rural farms. We have people making livings in industries and businesses as diverse as fishing and ship building to high tech and tourism. We have been absorbing populations from nations throughout the world for 350 years. I'd match our diversity of people, backgrounds, and political philosophies with any other state. You name an issue or a concern, and we have advocates, points of view, and very possibly organizations working on that issue. It's democracy at its best, and we bring that face-to-face, eye-to-eye, to visiting candidates.
With Iowa having the first political party nomination event, followed by the first real election in New Hampshire, the rest of the great diversity of our country can still be involved in many other ways as well. No one, and no interest, is being shut out by having Iowa and New Hampshire remain in lead-off positions: party conventions and candidate forums, debates, regional conferences and round-table events are held by various groups all over our nation in the months leading up to Iowa and New Hampshire. Those can continue and can even be enhanced for 2008.
Then in the weeks and months after New Hampshire's primary, the involvement of all segments of America can continue to be pivotal parts of the process. New Hampshire and Iowa add to, not take away from, the diversity of the election season. Involving the voters of the District of Columbia in a more front-and-center role would contribute to that diversity as well.
The alternative to the Democratic National Committee identifying the win-win scenario is to continue to have a nominating schedule that will be up in the air until the New Hampshire Secretary of State formally sets the date of the NH Primary, which under our state law he is obligated to wait to do until late in the Fall of 2007 - - perhaps as late as December, just a few short weeks before New Hampshire and Iowa have their lead-off events.
An unpredictable schedule is not good for either of the parties, it's not good for the presidential candidates of either of the parties, and it's not good for the election process. Cooler and smarter heads in the Democratic National Committee should agree.
The New Hampshire First-In-The-Nation Presidential Primary is about people and dialogue on issues, not so much about cameras and mega-fundraising, as is often the case when the campaigns leave our state. The one-to-one, face-to-face, eye-to-eye, person-to-person on-the-street and in-the-living rooms campaigning that presidential candidates have to undergo in New Hampshire makes us a better country, and helps make our next president a better leader. That's important for Democrats and Republicans alike.
Let's find the peace. Let's find the win-win for everyone in 2008. There's room for all, with Iowa and New Hampshire continuing to be involved in our traditional roles.
New Hampshire State Representative
Portsmouth & Newington
The NH First-In-The-Nation Presidential Primary Law:
TITLE LXIII - ELECTIONS
ELECTION OF OFFICERS AND DELEGATES
Election Dates - Section 653:9