On the trail: Lawmaker pushes to keep N.H.’s presidential primary first

By PAUL STEINHAUSER 
For the Monitor 

Thursday, January 03, 2019

State Rep. Renny Cushing wants to add some more fire power to the endless fight by Granite Staters to safeguard New Hampshire’s cherished status as the home of the first primary in the race for the White House.

The longtime Democratic lawmaker from Hampton introduced a bill to create a permanent first-in-the-nation presidential primary commission.

“What we’d like to do is institutionalize the celebration and education about the first-in-the-nation primary,” Cushing told the Monitor on Thursday. “We constantly need to reinforce what’s great about New Hampshire’s brand and why New Hampshire does such a wonderful job with the first-in-the-nation primary.”

The commission would include the governor, state Senate president, state House speaker, five other lawmakers, the secretary of state, a member of the Executive Council, the chairman of the ballot law commission, the state Democratic and GOP chairs, and five members of the public chosen by the governor.

The panel would produce an annual report for the governor, Senate president and House speaker. And it would organize events to help promote the primary and educate the public about the primary’s history and importance.

Longstanding state laws mandate that the primary remain first in the nominating calendar and give the secretary of state the power to re-schedule to primary to keep the contest first.

Still, some lawmakers think more protection is needed.

“I think more is needed to protect it and to celebrate it,” Cushing said.

Cushing predicted that there would be bipartisan support for the commission.

“Anything that we can do to protect New Hampshire’s presidential primary is a good thing,” said GOP state Sen. Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro, the top Republican in the chamber. “I don’t have a problem with a commission looking at it.”

Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes of Concord agreed.

“We need to do everything we can to protect the first-in-the-nation primary and I believe that Rep. Cushing’s bill is a step in the right direction to do that,” Feltes said.

Longtime New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said he wasn’t familiar enough with Cushing’s bill to comment.

Andrew Gorrill