Sununu, NH Dems, legislative leaders reject DNC primary demands

Jan. 5—CONCORD — Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, Gov. Chris Sununu and top legislative leaders from both parties urged the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee Thursday to abandon their plan to strip New Hampshire of its first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

These letters are an official response to — and a flat rejection of — the DNC panel's demand that the New Hampshire Legislature either repeal its first-primary state law or risk having its contest pushed back further on the 2024 nominating calendar.

"We ask that this committee not punish New Hampshire Democrats and recognize the Granite State's first-in-the-nation primary in 2024," Buckley wrote.

"Let us as Democrats enact a calendar that meets the goals of greater diversity earlier in our process while not putting the fortunes of Democrats in any state at risk."

President Joe Biden and the DNC rules panel have endorsed a 2024 calendar that would give South Carolina the first primary, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada less than a week later.

DNC leaders are recommending the change, insisting the party must have more racially diverse states than New Hampshire lead off the primary nominating process.

Biden beat former President Donald Trump in New Hampshire in 2020 but in three presidential primary attempts, he never finished better than fifth.

The full DNC is expected to vote on the nominating calendar next month.

Sununu calls out Biden

Along with Buckley, House Majority Leader Jason Osborne, R-Auburn, Senate Majority Leader Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, and Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, all sent letters to meet the Thursday deadline set by the DNC panel for New Hampshire to respond to its demands.

All Senate Democrats and the leadership team of House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm of Manchester signed onto Soucy's letter.

Sununu released his own letter to Soucy in support of the primary defense campaign.

"But I have a message for them and President Biden — you can try to come and take it — but that is Never. Going. To. Happen. It's just not in our DNA to take orders from Washington," Sununu said in his letter.

"We will not be blackmailed. We will not be threatened, and we will not give up. You see the New Hampshire primary has stood the test of time, giving everyone a fair shot."

Osborne said the DNC demands are a non-starter.

"I regret to inform you that no legislator from any party has filed legislation that would comply with your outrageous demands," Osborne wrote.

"Furthermore, given your overreach into state affairs, it is likely that any legislation pertaining to these demands would be met with fierce resistance."

Soucy noted that her colleagues have responded to one request of the rules panel by sponsoring 2023 legislation to permit no-excuse absentee voting.

In 2019 when the Democrat-led Legislature passed that bill, Sununu vetoed it.

"Punishing New Hampshire Democrats, who have no ability to address voting laws in the face of a Republican trifecta in the state, could have dire consequences for Democrats up and down the ticket in 2024," Soucy said.

klandrigan@unionleader.com