DNC strikes New Hampshire, Iowa, overhauling main calendar
On Saturday, the Democratic National Committee approved the presidential primary calendar, making South Carolina the first state to nominate in 2024, pushing New Hampshire and Iowa out of their traditional seats in a party-wide effort to diversify the early calendar.
In a voice vote at the Philadelphia DNC Winter Caucus, party members voted to put South Carolina first on Saturday February 3, 2024, followed three days later by Nevada and New Hampshire on February 6, and Georgia a week later. . and Michigan on February 13.
“Guys, the Democratic Party is like America and so is this proposal,” said DNC Chairman Jamie Harrison.
The vote formally approved the motion, first put forward by the Rules and Bylaws Committee in early December, after a year of state nominee presentations. It also satisfied President Joe Biden’s desire to focus on South Carolina and Nevada rather than white-majority New Hampshire and Iowa.
“We can’t go back in time to fix the wrongs of our past, but by God, it will help us take our hands on this arc of history and sway it towards justice,” said Pete Lee, vice chairman of the Oregon Democratic Party during the debate before voting.
But the DNC vote runs counter to the April 2022 GOP National Committee vote to retain the traditional primary nomination order: Iowa, followed by New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. It also led to what is likely to be a violent conflict in New Hampshire and Iowa over their positions on the calendar.
For its part, New Hampshire has a state law that requires both Republican and Democratic presidential primaries to be held together before elections in any other state, and its Secretary of State Dave Scanlan has vowed to run them first no matter what.
On Saturday, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu reiterated that vow.
“Joe Biden and influential DNC officials in Washington believe that New Hampshire’s time is up, but it’s not in our DNA to follow orders from Washington,” Sununu tweeted. “New Hampshire will be first in 2024.”
“Ready to wait”
Saturday’s vote came after nearly an hour of heated debate between representatives from Iowa and New Hampshire, who urged the party to reconsider the vote, and committee members from other states, who argued the change was necessary and overdue.
Harrison of South Carolina said the calendar “reflects our values and strengthens our party.” He argued that every state in the new calendar revealed the strengths of the party, from black Americans in South Carolina to Hispanic voters in Nevada to union workers in Michigan and Nevada.
“Guys, think about this: forty percent of the enslaved people came to this country, and they came through the port of Charleston,” Harrison said. “… We know how important the Latin American voice is to the building of this country. It rises, pushing Nevada (up).”
Artie Blanco of Nevada agreed. Democrats in her state have long argued that new elective primaries are “in the long-term interests of this Democratic Party,” she said. The new position will be a significant boost to Latino voters, she said.
“Fellow Democrats, you can’t say you are raising the voice of this coalition, but still ask us to wait our turn,” she said. “I’m tired of waiting.”
Other state officials said the calendar is a new roadmap for Democrats to build support in areas of the country once considered hopeless. Alan Clendenin, a Florida Democrat, praised the new calendar for bringing new attention to southern states and making the party take it seriously.
“The road to victory will be through the South,” he said. “We are rising, and between South Carolina and Georgia being mapped, we will achieve victory in 2024 and beyond.”
South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Trav Robertson argued that the new position on his staff would reward presidential candidates who can compete in a variety of conditions, not just those who raised the most money.
“The reality is that 60 to 65 percent of traditional Democratic voters in South Carolina do not live in the same county,” he said. “You have to come to our state and work in urban areas, in rural areas, to build an organization to win.”
In her own fiery speech, Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan rebutted Iowa and New Hampshire’s arguments that they should hold their ground, countering that Michigan has been better at predicting future presidents lately.
“This is reality,” she said. “No state should have a ban on going first.”
Last Minute Prayers from New Hampshire, Iowa
Meanwhile, New Hampshire officials argued that the DNC move would have political repercussions.
The DNC proposal, approved on Saturday, would grant each state a new slot, subject to a number of conditions. In New Hampshire, these conditions include repealing a 1975 law requiring primary elections to be first, and passing legislation to expand the number of people who can vote by absentee ballot. Both of these requests were denied by the leading Republicans in the state, who control the Legislature and the Governor’s office.
Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina met their terms in time for the Philadelphia meeting, but New Hampshire and Georgia did not, according to a DNC spokesperson. On Saturday, the DNC approved an extension through June 3 for those two states.
But Joan Dowdell, New Hampshire’s DNC representative on the Rules and Regulations Committee, argued that whatever the deadline, the state’s requirements could not be met. If the requirements are not met, new DNC rules require the New Hampshire presidential primary to be moved to March, well past the early window.
“It’s frustrating because the DNC is going to punish us even though we don’t have the ability to unilaterally change state law,” she said. “And we’re frustrated because no matter how many times we say this, no one seems to listen when we say it’s only going to hurt President Biden in our purple battlefield state.”
Dowdell said that since New Hampshire would likely run the primary first anyway, any penalties placed on the state would affect support for Biden’s re-election.
“If President Biden does not enter the New Hampshire primary, it could give the rebel candidate an opportunity to rise up the state and potentially win the first presidential primary in 2024, which no one in this room wants to see.” Dowdell said.
New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley warned that if Granite State voters turn down Democrats, the consequences could tip the balance in the US Senate and House of Representatives, which are nearly evenly matched.
“Try to get 51st in the US Senate without Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan,” Buckley said, referring to the two Democratic senators from New Hampshire.
Iowa Democrats, who are completely excluded from the early nomination window under the new calendar, also expressed disappointment.
Ian Bauer, Iowa’s DNC member, said the Rules and Bylaws Committee ignored the state’s efforts to update the caucus system and effectively reshape it to more closely resemble the primaries. These promised changes come after a series of disruptions led to multi-day delays in the release of the results of the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses.
Rita Hart, the newly elected chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said Iowa was in an “incredible” position of choosing between DNC rules and state laws. She also said the changes “fuel the perception that Democrats have turned their backs on Iowa and rural America.”
“Iowans value common sense, and it just doesn’t make sense to completely exclude representation from the rural Midwestern states in the preliminary window,” Hart said.
Scott Brennan, former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said he opposed the new calendar “out of genuine concern that the proposed calendar, and the huge uncertainty surrounding it, cannot be resolved in a timely manner.”
He said the extension won’t change the fact that two states can’t meet the new waiver requirements. He also argued that by approving the new calendar so close to the primary itself – almost exactly one year after Saturday’s vote – the DNC is setting itself up for a controversial year when states try to cancel the new calendar.
“There is limited calendar real estate, conflicting state laws, and a GOP calendar that no longer bears any resemblance to ours,” Brennan said. “If the past is a prologue, some of the states proposed here will spend the coming year maneuvering for their position, and we have created an opportunity for other states to try to encroach on the preliminary window.”
But James Roosevelt, a member of the Massachusetts state committee and co-chair of the rules and bylaws committee, praised the committee’s efforts to reach its decision.
“It was a long process, but open and honest,” Roosevelt said, adding that it was the result of “extensive meetings, discussions and research.”
“The new window shows that we are a party that is adapting and growing,” he said.
This article first appeared in the New Hampshire Bulletin, a sister site of the Nebraska Examiner on the state news network.
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