Granite Reports: Is Gardner now ‘secondary’ to keeping our primary first? Duprey thinks so

SATURDAY, JAN. 24: GARDNER “SECONDARY?” For the first time in memory, there appear to be no rogue states ready to challenge New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status in 2016.


Past cycles of course have seen challenges from the likes of Arizona, Delaware, Florida and Michigan, but the national political parties have imposed rules with harsh penalties for states that try to move ahead of the designated early states and, for the Democrats, candidates who would campaign in such rogue states.



For decades, Secretary of State Bill Gardner has been the guardian of New Hampshire Primary. We have written about him extensively over the years and have covered him in cycle after cycle as he outmaneuvered other states that were trying to move ahead of New Hampshire or hold “similar elections” closely after our primary. The state’s primary law requires Gardner to bump the primary at least seven days a head of a “similar election.”


Such maneuvering by other states — and out maneuvering by Gardner – led to early January primaries in 2012 and 2008.


But now the two political parties have ramped up the potential penalties, especially on the Republican side.


Both parties now have rules forbidding any state party to hold a primary or caucus prior to March 1, 2016. The early exceptions are Iowa, which can hold its caucus no earlier than Monday, Feb. 1, 2016; New Hampshire, no earlier than Feb. 9; and then later in month South Carolina and Nevada.


The Democratic National Committee’s rules say, as they said for the 2012 election, that any state that jumps ahead of March 1 (or in the case of the early states, ahead of the dates set out in February) will lose half their delegates to the DNC’s convention. And candidates who campaign in a “rogue” state would not receive any delegates from that state.


The DNC reserves the right to stiffen the penalties and further reduce the number of delegates, at the discretion of its Rules and Bylaws Committee, for states that still refuse to play by the rules. It can also reduce the number of delegates on key convention committees or change a delegation’s seating arrangements at the convention or even its hotel location.


On the other side, Republican National Committeeman Steve Duprey explained in an interview – and separately in a recent report to the Republican State Committee – that the national committee has sharply upgraded its penalties so that now, any state that jumps ahead will be penalized not just 50 percent – but 90 percent! — of its delegates. That means, for instance that Republicans in Florida, which was penalized half of their 90 delegates for jumping ahead in 2012, would end up with only nine delegates if the state made a similar move this cycle.


Duprey also said there has been discussion about a “death penalty,” although it is not part of the current rules governing the 2016 cycle’s delegate selection process. He wrote in his report to the NHGOP that some RNC members have discussed a rule that would force candidates who campaigned or allowed their names on the ballot of a state that wasn’t following the RNC schedule to forfeit half of all delegates they earn nationally.


The “death penalty,” said Duprey “is always out there as a possibility. If we find that we have an enforcement problem even under the current rule, it could be considered for 2020.”


And Duprey wrote to the NHGOP, “Obviously the adoption of such a rule would end our primary.”


That’s strong language, but Duprey goes further. He says that despite our state law that gives Gardner the authority to schedule the primary at least seven days ahead of any similar election, the national parties hold the ultimate power over our primary through the allocation of delegates.


Here’s how Duprey put it in his memo: “The Supreme Court has ruled that the national parties have control over their own nominating process. Thus, while Bill Gardner has played a very important role in setting our primary date to protect our status during those times when our party rules didn’t dictate the schedule, ultimately the national committee has the power and right to trump state law.”


And in an interview, Duprey put it more bluntly: “Bill Gardner has played a key role in moving the date around when the national parties didn’t control the calendar, but, realistically, if the parties do their jobs, Bill’s job has become secondary.”


Gardner told us this week he has seen the Duprey memo to the NHGOP, and that he was “surprised” by it, declining to directly comment on it further. He noted the many times when he scheduled the primary in such a way to ensure that the state law as adhered to.


We’re sure there are a lot of faithful supporters of the primary who may understand what Duprey is saying, but at the same time hardly feel that Bill Gardner’s role in the process has suddenly become “secondary.”


(Saturday, Jan. 24, Update)  After we published this column Saturday morning, Duprey posted the following on Facebook:


” Let me be clear: Bill Gardner has done a terrific job protecting our primary during those cycles when the national parties took a ‘hands off’ approach to the nominating calendar. But when the parties exercise control, as they are entitled to, there should not be a need for Bill to have to juggle and move the date as he has in the past. That is the only context in which his role is secondary. He does a terrific job as Secretary and if the parties revert to a laissez fair approach to the schedule, he will once again have to be the scheduler and protector in chief.


Duprey continued,  “Also note that if a party adopted a so called ‘death penalty’ rule it would only be the end of our primary if the national party did not accord us the honor of going first. As I added in my report to state committee members, support for the NH primary’s first in the nation status has never been stronger and a death penalty rule could actually add an even stronger protection to our primary if we were kept first on the schedule, which I believe we would be.


Nothing about our venerable and venerated Secretary of State is secondary other than the fact he won’t have to juggle dates this cycle.”


(Sunday Jan. 25, Update)  On Sunday morning, Democratic National Committeewoman and former New Hampshire Democratic Party Kathy Sullivan commented:


“I’m not sure what precipitated this letter, but I don’t know how anyone can say the New Hampshire Secretary of State is not primarily responsible for keeping the presidential primary in its historical position, given his authority to set the date for our state-financed event.”

STATE REP: END SAME DAY REGISTRATION. Three weeks after the midterm election, Granite Reports first reported that same-day registrations in New Hampshire totaled 33,393, by far a record for a non-presidential year. And we reported in an analysis that it just so happened that same-day registrations were much higher in Democratic strongholds, such as college communities and cities, than in GOP strongholds.


That was just a fact, but of course, it was a fact that concerned Republicans, who generally feel that same-day registration promotes voter fraud.


A few weeks later, WMUR did a report in which Secretary of State Gardner called it a concern and in which state Sen. Sharon Carson decried “drive-by voting.”


As it turns out, however, Gardner told us this week that he supports same-day registration as compared to the alternative. Without it, he said, the state would be placed under the federal so-called “Motor Voter Law.” In that case, he said, “Local officials would lose control” of the registration process.


He noted that the “Motor Voter” law requires state governments to allow people to register to vote at the same time they apply for, or renew, a driver’s license, and to register to people to vote at any office that provides “public assistance.” It also mandates that registering by mail be allowed.


“Compared to the federal law,” Gardner told Granite Reports. “I’m where I was back in 1993 when we passed it in the first place, because the alternative is no longer voter registration done by local officials. We had this debate when this bill passed in 1993 and roughly 90 percent of the Republican in the House wanted same-day voter registration, and the Democrats were split, at best,” preferring Motor Voter.


Gardner said, “I trust the local officials. They are less likely to allow voter fraud.”


But that hasn’t stopped an effort to end it.


Republican second-term state Rep. Dick Marston of Manchester told Granite Reports he has a bill coming out soon that end same-day registration.


“My problem is that I think voter registration on the same day as an election causes more problems than it is worth,” he said. “In my opinioin there is more opportunity for fraud. There is no way of checking on someone in one day.


“People walk in and say, ‘Yes, I live here.’ They’ll say, “I don’t have my proof and I’ll sign the paper to say I live here,’ but they don’t’ live here. It’ just opens the door to easy election fraud.”


Marston said his bill would require someone to reside in the state for 30 days ahead of an election in order to register.


“I don’t know all the answers,” he said. “But this isn’t working. If we have to go to Motor Voter, then let’s try something different. Maybe we’ll eliminate one kind of fraud and some with another kind of fraud, and then we’ll work on that.”


RUBIO RETURNING. Activity on the Republican side of the presidential primary scene in New Hampshire ramped up in a big way this week. We reported exclusively that a key associate of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is reaching out and inquiring about operatives in the state who may be interesting in being part of a presidential campaign.


We also reported exclusively that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to come to New Hampshire on Feb. 16 to keynote the Merrimack County/Concord City Republican Committees’ Lincoln-Reagan Dinner at the Grappone Center.


Sandwiched between those reports was news that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be in the state on March 14 for a NHGOP “2016 Kickoff Grassroots Training” event at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord. And former New York Gov. George Pataki will make his second visit to the state in just more than two week next Tuesday and Wednesday.


Granite Reports has learned that another likely presidential contender is expected to return to the state in February.


ABC News reported on Friday that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has also begun taking “concrete steps” toward a presidential candidacy including a fundraising trip next week and a book tour to early primary states in February.


Sources tell us that although the visit has yet to be confirmed, Rubio is tentatively planning the New Hampshire leg of that tour for the week of Feb. 23. ABC reported he is expected to be in Iowa on Feb. 13.


PERRY AT ALTOS. We’ve reported that when former Texas Gov. Rick Perry returns to New Hampshire on Feb. 11 and 12, one of his key events will be a business roundtable in the Manchester area.


We’ve now learned that the event will be at mid-day on Feb. 11 at Altos, a digital marketing agency in Bedford, headed by James Basbas, the former senior adviser to former U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rubens. Basbas has also been active with a “New Hampshire for Rick Perry” Facebook page, which went on line within the past few weeks.


We’ve also noted that Perry will attend the Seacoast Republican Women’s Club event at the Portsmouth Country Club on the evening of Feb. 11 and on Feb. 12 will keynote the Strafford County Lincoln Day Dinner at the Cottage-By-The-Bay in Dover.
THE O’CONNOR ‘MOVEMENT.’ Contrary to outward appearances, not all is totally serene among New Hampshire Democrats these days.


We reported back on Jan. 10 that Democratic Bedford businessman Shawn O’Connor said he was “exploring my option,” including a possible run for the 1st District U.S. House seat, and appeared to be the subject of an emerging draft effort.


It’s hard to say how many people are actually on board with the “Draft Shawn” movement, but the effort – and O’Connor – are getting much attention in state Democratic circles these days.


The Miscellany Blue website on Thursday reported that O’Connor supporters have brought in Mike McCollum, a former West Virginia Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee field director and a regional field organizer for Obama for America in Missouri. It reports that “Draft Shawn for New Hampshire” has been registered with the Federal Election Committee.


Miscellany Blue reports on O’Connor’s “Third Way” views and says, “An O’Connor campaign would likely face stiff competition from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. Former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has left the door open for another rematch with Rep. Frank Guinta. If she passes, a deep bench of serious Democratic contenders, led by executive councilor Chris Pappas, are reportedly eyeing the seat.”


So, there does appear to be a tug-of-war and maybe a future congressional primary shaping up. We reported last week that leading Democrats have begun discussions to draft Pappas to run for the congressional seat.


And a member of the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” was critical of O’Connor this week, telling us that O’Connor is trying to “create the illusion of a grassroots draft effort when less than a handful of people know who he is. That makes it hard to take him seriously. Besides, Congresswoman Shea-Porter would relish running against a ‘one percenter’ multi-millionaire former Lehman Brothers banker who moved from New York City to New Hampshire.”


(Sunday, Jan. 25 Update)  O’Connor responded to the criticism on Sunday, calling it “a complete mischaracterization.”


O’Connor said he worked at Lehman Brothers “for about eight months, eight to 10 years ago,and I left because I found it to be a toxic environment. I’ve spent the last eight to 10 years creating jobs in the state and across the country.” O’Connor founded and heads Stratus Prep, a test preparation and admissions counseling firm based in New York and Bedford.


O’Connor also said of the he wrote article cited by Miscellany Blue, “I’ve never referred to the Third Way organization. I was referring to the ‘Clinton-esque’ third way” of finding a “third, distinct strategy.”


“Granite Staters are telling me they are fed up with gridlock in Washington and politicians who can’t come together on common sense solutions, as New Hampshire has been able to do under the leadership of Governor Hassan on issues such as health care, funding of public education and public transportation. I was not referring to the Third Way organization but to a strong desire to see our leaders forge compromises.”


Also, said O’Connor, he has lived in New Hampshire for three years, not one. “I am more than happy to produce documents to show that this is my third year living in New Hampshire, including producing the purchase-and-sales agreement on my home and a lease agreement. Any notion that I’m a recent move is a mischaracterization.”


“People may disagree with my politics, but I’m a business owner who has created jobs,” and, he said, he would bring such experience to his campaign, should he choose to run for office.




“WINNING MARRIAGE” NH LAUNCH. Marc Solomon, the national campaign director for the pro-marriage equality group Freedom to Marry, will be featured at a New Hampshire launch for his new book, “Winning Marriage” at a major event at the Centennial Hotel in Concord next Thursday.


The host committee for the event is both high-powered and bipartisan, including New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley, Democratic Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, Republican consultants Tyler Deaton, Matt Flanders, Christine Baratta Fleming, Sarah Crawford Stewart and Chris Stewart, former Sen. Jeanne Shaheen campaign manager Mike Vlacich, Democratic strategist Liz Purdy and strategist/lobbyist Jim Monahan, as well as activists Lew Feldstein, James McClure, Mary McGowan, Stephanie Ramirez and Craig Stowell.


The Solomon book was named a Slate “Best Book of 2014.” The event comes after the recent fifth anniversary of the enactment of New Hampshire’s marriage equality law.


In an email about the event Friday, the New Hampshire Stonewall Democrats said they will have a separate event in April honoring the “10 Top LGBT Power Players in New Hampshire.”


_ The New Hampshire Primary’s 100th anniversary will be celebrated in Washington on Feb. 11. The New Hampshire Institute of Politics, WBIN television, Bloomberg Politics are hosting an event at the Newseum, “The New Hampshire Primary Centennial: The Power of the Granite State.” Among those scheduled to appear are Sens. John McCain and Jeanne Shaheen, Democratic strategist James Carville, GOP strategist Tom Rath and New Hampshire Union Leader Publisher Joseph McQuaid.


_ The Ready for Hillary New Hampshire organization will hold an Upper Valley organizing meeting on Wednesday at the home of former state Rep. Bernie Benn.



(John DiStaso is news editor of the New Hampshire Journal and the most experienced political reporter/columnist in New Hampshire. He has been reporting on Granite State politics since 1980. Watch for updates of his Granite Reports column and of course separate stories on as news breaks. He can be reached at and on Twitter: @jdistaso.)


Author: John DiStaso

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  • Joan Alayne Stevens

    I have know Shawn for several years and am anxious for him to get some attention for a possible run for US Congress from District 1. I am impressed that he has become actively involved in New Hampshire as evidenced by his service on the board of Red River Theatre and City Year NH. He is also a leader at St Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Goffstown. I find him to be well aware of issues that are important to residents of our State such as access to high quality and affordable healthcare, job creation and sensible economic policies.

  • Amy Poisson

    I’m supporting Shawn O’Connor’s run for the 1st District US House seat. He recognizes the value of education, supports small business and has plans to increase jobs in NH. He will defend women’s reproductive choices, as well as marriage equality. I find that thorough research and careful deliberation are the basis for all of his political positions.