Wednesday, April 16, 2003

First in War, First in Peace...

District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams signed legislation yesterday moving the D.C. presidential primaries from May to the second Tuesday in January, for now making the nation’s capital host to the nation’s first primary.

This power play by D.C. will obviously anger New Hampshire, which jealously guards its position as the nation’s first primary state (Iowa actually chooses their delegates first, but they employ a closed caucus system, not an open primary election.) New Hampshire law, in fact, requires them to go first:

653:9 Presidential Primary Election. – The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a Tuesday selected by the secretary of state which is 7 days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election, whichever is earlier, of each year when a president of the United States is to be elected or the year previous. Said primary shall be held in connection with the regular March town meeting or election or, if held on any other day, at a special election called by the secretary of state for that purpose.

Now, D.C. sponsors argue that since the District is not a “state,” it need not officially disrupt New Hampshire’s position at the head of the pecking order. But New Hampshire law doesn’t see it that way. The statute’s definition section says that any election which selects delegates to a presidential nominating convention constitutes a “similar election” for purposes of Section 653:9. Therefore, New Hampshire is legally obligated to move their primary to the first Tuesday in January, marking the earliest start ever for the official nomination contest.

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