New Hampshire Democrats are accusing the Democratic National Committee of punishing Granite State voters, calling plans to upend the party’s presidential primary schedule a “poison pill” that would hurt Democrats in future elections.
Those sharp criticisms were part of a letter New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley sent to DNC chairman Jaime Harrison Tuesday, arguing that the new requirements for states to participate in early nominating contests adopted by the DNC earlier this month were impossible for New Hampshire to meet. The DNC is requiring that New Hampshire change a state law requiring that its presidential primary be first in the nation, an honored tradition since 1920. The new rules also state New Hampshire must expand access to early voting.
“These provisions would effectively end the New Hampshire primary as we know it, removing it from the pre-primary window for the foreseeable future and depriving voters of a deliberative presidential process that prioritizes retail, face-to-face politics on a level playing field,” Buckley’s letter states. The letter was first reported by Politico.
The DNC moved to reshape its presidential nominating contests on Dec. 9, adopting a proposal that would make South Carolina the first contest in the Democratic primary calendar on Feb. 3, 2024. New Hampshire and Nevada would hold primaries three days later on Feb. 6, followed by Georgia and Michigan.
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Democrats have for years argued that Iowa and New Hampshire, traditionally the first two nominating states, are too rural, too White, and unrepresentative of the party’s diverse voting base. The proposal to change the schedule is favored by President Biden, who has historically underperformed in New Hampshire primary elections. The president came in fifth in the New Hampshire 2020 Democratic primary, before winning South Carolina and carrying that momentum to the Democratic nomination.
Biden has repeatedly said he intends to run for re-election in 2024 and the new calendar proposed by the president and approved by the DNC panel appears to be another sign that he’ll follow through on those intentions. It would also benefit Biden should he face any potential primary challenges from the left of his party.
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But New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is opposed to the proposal, and the Republican-controlled state legislature is not inclined to acquiesce to the Democratic Party’s demands that they change the law. Buckley’s letter raised both these points. State Democrats have objected to the DNC’s plans too.
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the senior member of the congressional delegation and a former governor, said the DNC’s move “holds no bearing over when we choose our primary date: New Hampshire’s State law stipulates that we will hold the ‘First-in-the-Nation’ primary. That status remains unchanged as we are bound by State statute.”
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“The DNC is requiring New Hampshire’s Republican governor, Republican Senate majority leader, and Republican House majority to comply with Democrats’ demands and move the date of the primary. Already, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has declared the proposal: ‘dead on arrival.’ Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley echoed his sentiments, saying of the DNC’s request: ‘Not happening. Not happening at all,’” the letter states.
“With these declarations, there is nothing that the New Hampshire Democratic Party can do to comply with the DNC’s demands,” Buckley wrote.
He further complained that New Hampshire is the only early-nominating contest state being asked to change its laws to accommodate the DNC’s new rules. He argued that losing New Hampshire’s role in the Democratic primary will alienate independent voters and reduce voter enthusiasm, harming Democrats electorally.
“New Hampshire is a critical battleground state for Democrats – one that delivered to President Biden the votes he needed in the U.S. House and Senate to implement critical parts of his agenda like the Inflation Reduction Act. Our state will be critical to his re-election in 2024,” Buckley wrote.
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“It is our hope than the people of New Hampshire are not penalized by arbitrary and unfair requirements placed on them by the DNC, and that these requirements do not punish our Democratic delegation and President Biden in the elections to come.”
The DNC is requiring the proposed early nominating states to meet its requirements by Jan. 5 to secure their place in the nominating calendar. The full DNC will vote on the proposed schedule in their Philadelphia meeting in February.
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.