Friday, December 9, 2022

New Hampshire Secretary of State Elected by General Court

The first Wednesday of December after an election marks organization day in the New Hampshire General Court. Part of that process is the selection of a secretary of state by a joint session of the state Senate and House.

And on Wednesday that meant the General Court was to choose someone other than former Secretary of State Bill Gardner (D) for the first time in nearly half a century. Gardner stepped down from the post this past January and was succeeded by his deputy, David Scanlan (R). Consequently, this was Scanlan's first time standing before the General Court for a formal election. And he faced a challenge from Democrat Melanie Levesque.

In a bipartisan vote of 237-175, Scanlan was elected for a full two year term, and will now be tasked with continuing the job Gardner was most known for both at home and nationally: protecting the first-in-the-nation status of the presidential primary in the Granite state. 

Scanlan will, no doubt, follow the state law which empowers him to schedule the state's presidential primary seven days before any other similar contest just as his predecessor did. However, the newly elected secretary will face headwinds unlike those Gardner had to stare down during his 45 years at the helm. With national Democrats nudging New Hampshire back in the order, both parties are no longer aligned in viewing viewing -- and protecting -- the state's contest as first. 

But it probably won't be the secretary (or the primary) that pays the price in 2024. Instead, New Hampshire Democrats may bear the brunt of the fallout from a primary scheduled for a date earlier than February 6, the date on which the DNC plan places the contest. But that showdown between the DNC and the New Hampshire Democratic Party will play out in 2023-24. Before the secretary even makes a decision on the date -- likely during the latter half of 2023 -- New Hampshire Democrats... 
...must meet [conditions] to successfully gain a pre-window waiver from the DNCRBC [that] are collectively a tall order. The state party has to submit to the committee by January 5, 2023 letters from the New Hampshire governor, the New Hampshire state Senate majority leader and the New Hampshire state House majority leader -- all Republicans -- pledging to make all necessary statutory changes to 1) cement the February 6 primary date and 2) implement no excuse early voting. For a variety of reasons, none of those letters from Granite state Republican leaders is likely to be forthcoming by January 5 of next year or any time ever. And that makes the next condition even more unpalatable to New Hampshire Democrats. The new DNC regulations require that all those changes be made -- as in finalized -- by February 1, 2023. That is a recipe for New Hampshire Democrats losing their waiver. 
All of this occurs before New Hampshire Democrats have to submit a draft delegate selection plan along with all other states and territories to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC) by early May 2023. Each of those points will offer Democrats in the Granite state an opportunity to work with the committee and each of those moves (or non-moves) along the way will likely factor into how the DNCRBC treats the state with respect to penalties as the 2024 cycle progresses.

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