Earlier this week, the New Hampshire State Senate began hearings over House Bill 98 which would move the state primary ahead to the fourth Tuesday in June, two months earlier than its current date on the second Tuesday in September. The bill passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives last month 195-174 mostly along party lines with six Democrats voting in favor and nine Republicans against.
Advocates of the bill argue that the current primary system allows for large incumbency advantage as challenging candidates only have seven to eight weeks to campaign (56 days in 2020) before the general election. Moving the primary ahead would allow for a more even election, giving challengers more time to campaign before November.
During initial hearings in the Senate, legislators of both parties have been receptive to the idea of moving the primary up. State senator and Democratic leader Donna Soucy said the idea is “long overdue” and that she is supportive of the concept. There will be debate about the exact date for the primary to be moved to and whether or not it should take effect in the upcoming election or wait until the next cycle.
Despite widespread Republican support in the House and bipartisan support in the Senate, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu came out in opposition of the bill in a press conference last month after the bill was passed in the House. Sununu advocated in favor of maintaining the current system highlighting that New Hampshire is unique in its political institutions and should not change just to meet what other states are doing.
“The system we have in place is phenomenal,” the Governor said. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”
While the bill would not affect New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary in January, it would affect primaries for both state senate, house, and gubernatorial races as well as national elections for Congress. New Hampshire politics is currently in a peculiar situation as Republicans hold trifecta control over the state government while Democrats occupy four out of four offices in Congress. If signed into law, this bill would take effect before the 2022 election although the implementation could be pushed back should redistricting efforts not be finished in time for candidates to file.
Photo courtesy of Holly Ramer/ Associated Press.