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Nevada bill threatens NH's #fitn presidential primary

It's unclear whether national party leaders will back Nevada's proposal. But some have said the time for change has come.
Nevada bill threatens NH's #fitn presidential primary
Photo by Manny Becerra / Unsplash

Nevada lawmakers are pressing forward with an effort to jump to the front of the presidential primary line-up, threatening New Hampshire's coveted first-in-the-nation status.

Democrats in the Nevada Assembly introduced a bill Monday that would direct the state to hold a presidential primary on the second-to-last Tuesday in January of each presidential election year. The change, which would switch Nevada from a caucus to a primary, would take effect ahead of the 2024 presidential primary season.

Proponents of the change say putting Nevada ahead of New Hampshire would elevate a state that better reflects the nation's diversity:

  • "We are a majority-minority state with a strong union population and the power structure of the country is moving West," Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II said in a statement.
  • "Nevada has been a better barometer for where the country is going," Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson told reporters Monday, as Colton Lochhead and Bill Dentzer reported for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  • "I think we’re entitled to be the first state," Nevada's former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, a longtime ally of President Biden, said late last year, as Mark J. Barabak reported for the Los Angeles Times.

Reid played a big role in moving Nevada's caucuses up to third in the Democratic presidential nominating calendar in 2008, right after Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire’s primary, and he's still influential in the national Democratic Party, as Paul Steinhauser reported for Seacoastonline.

NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner has long promised to defend the Granite State's premier spot in the nominating process. State law stipulates the NH primary must be held at least seven days before any "similar election" in another state, after all.

Even if Nevada were to hold a primary on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, forcing Gardner to schedule NH's vote at least a week earlier, such an early primary is precedented in the Granite State. The NH primary was held Jan. 10 in 2012 and Jan. 8 in 2008.

Other NH officials were quick Monday to say they're up for the fight:

  • "It's on," NH Democratic National Committeeman Bill Shaheen said, as John Distaso reported for WMUR.
  • "We will work very hard with Secretary Gardner and the Republicans and our friends and allies around the country. And we will prevail," NH Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said, as WMUR reported.
  • "New Hampshire does democracy better than anywhere else and our First-in-the-Nation primary is an essential part of America’s political process," U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan said in a tweet. "We've beaten back attempts to take away our #FITN primary before and we'll uphold NH state law and defend it once again."

It's unclear whether national party leaders will approve of Nevada's proposed change. But some national leaders, including former Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez, have said the time for change has come.

"A diverse state or states need to be first," Perez said, as Reid J. Epstein reported for The New York Times. "The difference between going first and going third is really important. We know the importance of momentum in Democratic primaries."