Valley News – On the trail: NH Democrats quietly hold second presidential primary

A cutout of President Biden lies surrounded by snow next to the driveway of a home, Friday, April 5, 2024, in Derry, NH (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
AP – Charles Krupa

The Democratic National Committee will welcome New Hampshire delegates to its nominating convention in Chicago this summer after the state party conducted a very small, party-run presidential primary this weekend.

An official vote on the New Hampshire Democrats' return is expected to take place Tuesday at the next meeting of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which oversees the party's nomination calendar.

Granite State Democrats faced losing their state's delegates to the August national convention following the Democratic presidential primary in January. This ignored a new DNC presidential nomination calendar that had been adopted a year earlier and upended New Hampshire's century-long tradition of holding the first primary in the race for the White House.

Sources said dozens voted Saturday in a New Hampshire Democratic Party “fire department” primary held at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics. The party-run primary was first reported by Politico.

The quiet primary, from which Biden surprisingly emerged victorious, brought New Hampshire into compliance with DNC rules.

“We congratulate the NHDP on conducting a successful primary this weekend, ensuring that the delegate selection process complies with (Rules and Bylaws Committee) rules and giving the voices of New Hampshire Democratic voters an opportunity at the convention in August to be represented,” the DNC said in a statement.

“Our delegate selection process is complete and our delegates will be seated at the convention,” Ray Buckley, longtime state party chairman, said in a statement. “We are committed to re-electing President Biden.”

For years, Democrats have viewed both Iowa (whose caucuses have kicked off the nomination calendar for half a century) and New Hampshire as unrepresentative of the party as a whole because the states have predominantly white populations and few major urban areas. Nevada and South Carolina were added to the Democratic calendar nearly two decades ago to increase the diversity of the early states' electorate, and until recently had occupied third and fourth spots on the calendar.

While Republicans made no major changes to their 2024 schedule, the DNC followed Biden's lead early last year and overwhelmingly approved a calendar that put South Carolina at the top and relegated New Hampshire to second place along with Nevada.

But New Hampshire did just that, abiding by a state law that requires the presidential primary to take precedence — which meant the state's Jan. 23 nominating contest was not sanctioned by the national Democratic Party.

The president kept his name off the ballot and avoided the state, but thanks to a well-organized canvassing effort by New Hampshire's Democratic establishment leaders, the president easily won the primary against his long-term challengers.

With the primary in the rearview mirror, Biden returned to New Hampshire in March for his first visit in nearly two years.

“It amazed me what a write-in campaign you all did,” Biden told his supporters at a campaign stop in Manchester. “I was overwhelmed and very happy.” And Biden said with a laugh: “I was very careful not to be here.”

While Democrats in New Hampshire faced severe sanctions for holding the unauthorized primary in January, an agreement with national party leaders to reinstate delegates to the convention was expected.

Longtime Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, a top Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives and a close Biden ally, called on the DNC on the eve of the nation's first presidential primary in his state “not to stop the state law in New Hampshire against our Democrats.”

“Let the Democratic delegates in New Hampshire have their voice at the convention,” Clyburn stressed as he stood at a podium next to DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison.

Anna Harden

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