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New Hampshire adopts law to protect first place in primaries

[JURIST] New Hampshire Governor John Lynch [official profile] signed a bill [text] Thursday giving the state's Secretary of State flexibility in setting the filing period for presidential candidates, responding to the Democratic Party’s efforts to change the 2008 primary calendar and possibly replace New Hampshire as the home of the nation’s first primary [Nashua Telegraph backgrounder]. In a statement in Concord, Lynch said:

In the more than 50-year history of the New Hampshire primary, we have created a strong tradition of giving all candidates a level playing field and of giving all candidates the opportunity to make their cases directly to voters. We have made it possible for the so-called unknown candidates to make their case, without having millions in the bank. In turn, we have demanded much of candidates. We demand that candidates move beyond the rope line and the photo op. We demand that presidential candidates directly answer the hard questions from voters.

The traditions that took New Hampshire 50 years to build cannot simply be re-created in another state. Without New Hampshire, we would end up with campaigns composed of pre-scripted town hall meetings and television advertisements, and where only the best-financed candidates would be able to compete.

That is why New Hampshire's primary should remain first, and why New Hampshire's primary will remain first.
Read the full text of the Governor's press release on the bill signing. The first New Hampshire presidential primary was held in 1916; the race gained prominence in 1952 when Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Republican favorite Robert Taft, and Democratic incumbent Harry Truman lost to Estes Kefauver, putting an end to Truman's aspirations for a second term. The New Hampshire legislature passed a law in 1977 institutionalizing the primary's "first in the nation" status by requiring the Secretary of State to hold the state primary seven days ahead of any similar event in any other state.

The Democrats are concerned with the homogeneity of New Hampshire voters and have already approved adding one state in the eight day period between the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary. At the Democratic National Committee [official website] spring meeting, the Rules and ByLaws Committee heard presentations from states that would like to take over New Hampshire’s slot; at least 12 states are said to be in the running. California has recently been vocal about its own desire to replace New Hampshire, considering a bill that would schedule its primary as early as January 2. AP has more; the Manchester New Hampshire Union Leader has local coverage.

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