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Shaheen suggests voters could punish Democrats if N.H. loses its first-in-the-nation primary

A screenshot from the livestream of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee shows six Democrats from New Hampshire testifying before the DNC panel, along with a sign language interpreter
Democratic National Committee
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New Hampshire's delegation to the DNC meeting included, from right: Senate Minority Leader and DNC Committeewoman Donna Soucy, New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, Senator Maggie Hassan, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, DNC Member At-Large Joanne Dowdell and New Hampshire Democratic Party Data Director Jack Tormoehlen.

With a potential calendar shakeup looming, New Hampshire Democrats are trying to convince their national counterparts that the state deserves to hold onto its first-in-the-nation presidential primary — in part by suggesting that voters could punish the party if it loses the cherished spot.

Ahead of the 2024 election cycle, the Democratic National Committee is requiring states and territories to formally apply for an early spot in the party’s nominating calendar. As reported by NPR, the DNC is expected to issue a proposal for what that calendar will look like next month and hold a vote on it in August.

This week, delegations from interested states — including New Hampshire — traveled to Washington, D.C., to make their pitch to the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee.

Listen to an earlier NHPR interview with Joanne Dowdell, New Hampshire's Rules and Bylaws Committee Representative.

New Hampshire officials talked up the state's commitment to grassroots politics and its growing diversity. But Sen. Jeanne Shaheen also suggested Democrats could pay a price at the polls if the national party strips the Granite State of its first-in-the-nation status.

“Unfortunately, recently, the Republican Party has announced that they plan to keep their party's presidential selection calendar unchanged,” Shaheen said. “I say unfortunate because, consequently, we’re seeing a growing narrative that blames Democrats for jeopardizing New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation status.”

Given the competitive electoral environment for local Democrats, Shaheen added, “I fear stripping New Hampshire of its long held position could be consequential.”

DNC members peppered Shaheen and other New Hampshire Democrats about the potential impact of new voting restrictions passed by state Republicans, and a changing of the guard at the Secretary of State’s office, which has historically played a significant role in maintaining the state’s primary position. They also asked what party leaders are doing to communicate with the state’s growing Latino population.

Maria Cardona, a DNC member from Washington, D.C., expressed skepticism toward the idea that the benefits offered by New Hampshire’s style of presidential campaigning would be lost if its spot on the calendar were to change.

“To me, it doesn’t seem like, if one or two other states that represent — better represent — the diversity of this country go before them, that kind of retail politicking, I don’t know why that would change if they don’t go first,” she said.

For more, check out NHPR's Stranglehold podcast, which explored the influence of the New Hampshire primary and past efforts to protect its status.

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