Thank you for your work and dedication to the Democratic Party. While we may not agree on some of the proposals now under consideration by the Rules and Bylaws Committee, I know we share the same fundamental goal of developing a process to nominate the best and strongest candidate for President in 2008, and to do so in a way that increases diversity early in the nominating process. I remain hopeful that there is still an opportunity for the committee to accomplish those goals, while upholding the state laws and traditional roles of Iowa and New Hampshire.
As you know, the New Hampshire primary offers all candidates, whether or not they are well funded, whether or not they are nationally known, whether or not they come from big states, a fair shot at making their case to voters. New Hampshire gives candidates a chance to really be heard, and it also gives voters a chance to be heard.
As a swing state that allows Independents to vote in either primary, New Hampshire also provides an opportunity for the Democratic Party to test which of its candidates has the greatest appeal to the national electorate. New Hampshire was the only state in 2004 that switched from red to blue in both the presidential contest and the governor’s race, so we are confident that we provide a very strong battleground test.
For all these reasons, a chorus of past, present and future candidates have spoken out in recent months in favor of protecting New Hampshire’s tradition. A number of potential 2008 candidates have opposed any change to Iowa and New Hampshire’s positions in the nominating calendar. Some have already committed publicly to participating in the New Hampshire primary, no matter when it is held.
Last month, President Bill Clinton eloquently urged the DNC to retain the Iowa-New Hampshire sequence and not place any other state in between. He said:
The most compelling reason for supporting this is not the affection I feel, and not the loyalty. It is what I believe it takes to make a good President and a political process that has integrity. You've got to have some time to actually listen to voters. I respect the work of the (DNC rules committee). I know they're under a lot of pressure, but I think they should leave Iowa and New Hampshire alone. (In New Hampshire) you've got to go into the homes, into the cafes, into the meeting rooms, and you have to have town hall meetings, and you have to listen to voters as well as talk to them. You have to hear the way they speak about what's going on. The retail campaign here in New Hampshire makes every single person who runs for President better informed, better able to speak in a language and in a manner that people understand. You really come to know yourself and know America more if you have to do some campaigning the old-fashioned way.
Almost no matter what you do, if you move something ahead of New Hampshire, you are, by definition, going to minimize the amount of time for retail, one-on-one, small group politicking, not only in New Hampshire but in Iowa. I think it's something unique in preparing people to be not only better candidates, but to be better Presidents. I worry about the continued compressing of the calendar robbing the candidates of the opportunity to do what they have to do."It is also important that the Rules and Bylaws Committee understand that placing another state’s caucus or primary between Iowa and New Hampshire could conflict with New Hampshire law in such a manner as to cause disruption in the entire nominating process. New Hampshire’s law reads:
The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a Tuesday selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election, whichever is earlier, of each year when a president of the United States is to be elected or the year previous. (NH RSA 653:9)Rep. Jim Splaine, a sponsor of the New Hampshire primary laws, has written on the practical impact of this law:
No one knows for sure when our date will be until a short time before it is set. In fact, the Secretary of State CANNOT make an early agreement with anyone about when the date will be. It is his job, under the statute, to wait until all the other states have set their dates for the election events. . .It is entirely up to the Secretary of State to decide what a "similar election" is. To be clear, if in the fall of 2007, the Secretary of State determines that a new caucus, added between Iowa and New Hampshire, is a "similar election", he has full legal authority, on his own, to change the date of the New Hampshire primary.
The Secretary must wait until late in the fall of the year preceding the selection of President [e.g., the fall of 2007], then look at the schedule in all the other states, then apply the law's requirements.
Our state law mandates - requires - our Secretary of State to set the date of the NH Presidential Primary ‘...7 days or more...’ before any other similar election.
The Secretary of State also has unilateral authority to set the filing period for the primary even before he sets the date of the primary. The law says:
Declarations of candidacy shall be filed between the first Monday in November and the third Friday in November, or during such other time period as the secretary of state shall announce. (NH RSA 655:47, II)This means that the Secretary of State could set a filing period before he sets the date of the New Hampshire primary, so candidates would have to file before the calendar was set.
New Hampshire’s Secretary of State is independently elected by the Legislature. Our current Secretary of State has been in office for nearly 30 years and is one of the staunchest defenders of New Hampshire’s primary. You should assume that he will move up New Hampshire’s primary date, perhaps even ahead of Iowa, if he determines it is necessary to uphold New Hampshire law.
I truly and deeply believe that the calendar the rules committee is considering will have the opposite effect than was intended. By pushing so many contests into such a short period of time, candidates will be forced to run a national campaign from the start.
If "stand alone" primaries were added in the weeks after New Hampshire it would give candidates the time necessary to continue to build momentum and it would also guarantee voters in those states a strong voice in the nominating process.
We recognize that the current calendar is not perfect, and we in New Hampshire are willing to play a constructive role to improve it. We also recognize that the Rules Committee has already scaled back the original proposals of the Commission in an effort to respect New Hampshire’s law and tradition.
However, it is our duty to act decisively to uphold our law and defend our primary tradition.
Placing another state’s caucus or primary between Iowa and New Hampshire, or placing another state within a week following New Hampshire, could put New Hampshire and the DNC on a collision course, resulting in chaos for the nominating process.
That would not be good for voters, for presidential candidates, or for the Democratic Party. I would like to work with you, within the constraints of New Hampshire law, to avoid that. I hope you are willing to take a fresh look and consider other ways that we can accomplish our joint goals.
John H. Lynch