NHDP Chair Ray Buckley's Letter to DNC Chair Jaime Harrison
CONCORD, NH — Today, NHDP Chair Ray Buckley sent the following letter to DNC Chair Jaime Harrison.
Read the full letter below.
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I am writing on behalf of the New Hampshire Democratic Party regarding the Democratic National Committee’s requirements for New Hampshire to participate in the pre-window lineup of nominating contests. These requirements will all but ensure its erasure from the Democrats’ early primary schedule. They imply no reasonable recourse for New Hampshire Democrats to comply, and could harm Democrats’ 2024 electoral prospects across the board in this critical battleground state.
First, we would like to emphasize that we share the Democratic National Committee’s view that we must honor the diversity of the Democratic Party and center more diverse voices- specifically Black and Latino voters- in the process. We are confident that the DNC’s proposal could have satisfied two important objectives: elevating the importance of Black voters and retaining New Hampshire’s status as the first in the nation primary, which would safeguard a battleground state for Democrats and maintain an important process for our country. These did not have to be mutually exclusive.
As the only non-”right to work” state in the pre-window period, we bring to the table a vibrant labor community and labor-friendly state.
New Hampshire’s Role in Choosing Presidents
As we have demonstrated over the years, New Hampshire offers a unique process and atmosphere that makes all politics- even the race for President- local. It levels the playing field between household names and unknowns. To perform well in New Hampshire, candidates don’t need huge war chests, expensive media buys, private planes, or even name recognition.
In the Granite State, every candidate gets a fair shot. Politicians, organizations, or committees don’t get to decide who wins here. Our voters are independent, and are not swayed by others. Rather, every candidate is judged on their merits.
As the veteran journalist Al Hunt wrote recently, “more than any other primary, candidates spend real time with engaged voters” in New Hampshire. Our electorate takes its role seriously and forces candidates to make personal connections, develop thoughtful policy agendas, and answer the toughest of questions. As President Clinton said: “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 ... something unique in preparing people to be not only better candidates, but to be better presidents.”
The DNC’s Undue Burden on NH Democrats, Punishment of NH Voters
The DNC’s proposal for the New Hampshire primary suggests New Hampshire Democrats do not have any option but to be in non-compliance and is essentially a poison pill for our primary.
Consider the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee’s language (bolded and underlined for emphasis):
By January 5, 2023, the New Hampshire Democratic Party must submit to the Co-Chairs of the Rules and Bylaws Committee signed letters from the Governor of New Hampshire, the Majority Leader of the New Hampshire Senate, and the Majority Leader of the New Hampshire House of Representatives stating their intention to make any and all statutory and regulatory changes necessary so as to (i) hold the New Hampshire 2024 Democratic presidential state-run primary on February 6, 2024 regardless of when the first determining step of any other state Democratic presidential nomination process occurs and (ii) expand access to early voting (e.g., by providing an option to vote before election day without an excuse)
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.
First, 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 Governor 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.”
With these declarations, there is nothing that the New Hampshire Democratic Party can do to comply with the DNC’s demands. If this proposal is approved by the DNC, we will push Independents - who make up 40% of our electorate and are the key in every general election - away from our party and Democrats will deliver a self-inflicted blow that Republicans will use to court voters over the next two years. Republicans have already started blaming Democratic leadership for New Hampshire losing its First-in-the-Nation primary and touting the GOP as the only party who cares about Granite Staters. With the close nature of presidential elections, that will needlessly jeopardize four critical electoral votes in this battleground state.
Second, while the New Hampshire delegation fully supports expanding access to voting, it is noteworthy that out of the early states included in the proposed pre-primary window- New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and Michigan- ours is the only state that is being asked to change its voting laws. Again, given the Republican trifecta in our state government, this proposal is also a non-starter.
It is worth asking why New Hampshire was the only state that was asked to change its voting laws, especially when the other proposed states for the pre-primary window also have limits on voting. Since 2004, New Hampshire has ranked among the top-five states with the highest percentage of turnout. In the 2020 general election, 74.2% of New Hampshire voters turned out compared to 66% of Nevadans, 65.4% of South Carolinians, 67.9% of Georgians, and 73.1% of Michiganders. New Hampshire was one of the first states to enact same day registration, and is joined only by Michigan and Nevada in the proposed new calendar.
New Hampshire’s Strong Support for President Biden, Solid Democratic Delegation
As stated above, New Hampshire is a true battleground state. And- despite having a nearly even split between registered Democrats and Republicans- has produced favorable results for federal Democrats in some of the toughest of electoral environments.
Democrats have won:
Five of the last five Presidential elections
Eight of the last thirteen gubernatorial elections;
Four of the last five U.S. Senate elections
Sixteen of the last eighteen U.S. House elections
This success has been especially pronounced over the last decade, in which two competitive presidential primaries took place. Democrats have increased the share of the general election electorate from 27% in 2012 to 32% in 2020, while the Republican share of the general election electorate decreased from 32% to 31%.
Some critical data points:
In 2014, New Hampshire was the only state to see an increase in voter participation over 2010. This led to Senator Jeanne Shaheen surviving a tough re-election campaign and Governor Maggie Hassan returning to the State Capitol.
In 2016, Democrats delivered four electoral votes to Hillary Clinton while Maggie Hassan was sent to Washington by one of the slimmest margins in state history — just 1,017 votes. Democrats also won both U.S. House seats.
In 2018, Democrats swept nearly every office in the state, by re-electing Congresswoman Annie Kuster and electing Congressman Chris Pappas as the first LGBTQ+ member of Congress from New Hampshire.
In 2020, Democrats secured New Hampshire for President Biden, while Senator Jeanne Shaheen was re-elected with one of the largest margins ever seen for a Democrat.
In 2022, Senator Maggie Hassan survived a tough re-election and both Congresswoman Kuster and Congressman Pappas were re-elected despite being targeted heavily by national Republicans.
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.
It is our hope that 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. We look forward to working with you to find a solution that honors the spirit of President Biden’s vision for a diverse, thoughtful Democratic primary process.
Chairman Ray Buckley