Democrats are prepared to jumble the states in the presidential primary calendar to add more diversity in early voting, prompting the governor of soon-to-be-slighted New Hampshire to warn of chaos in the nominating process.
Democratic Gov. John Lynch told members of a national Democrats panel that his state will “act decisively to uphold our law and defend our primary tradition.” He issued his warning in a letter to the panel on Thursday, some 48 hours before the Democratic National Committee rules and bylaws panel meets.
“Placing another state’s caucus or primary between Iowa and New Hampshire, or placing another state within a week following New Hampshire, could put New Hampshire and the DNC on a collision course, resulting in chaos for the nominating process,” Lynch wrote.
New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner will have to determine whether the Democrats’ actions comply with state law requiring that the primary be scheduled a week or more before any “similar election.”
Former President Clinton and a half-dozen White House hopefuls have echoed Lynch’s concern, expressing their support for New Hampshire’s pre-eminence. Members of the DNC panel have said they are prepared to change the calendar.
Iowa would still go first, but a Western state — possibly Nevada or Arizona — would be wedged in before the New Hampshire primary. A Southern state — possibly Alabama or South Carolina — would follow New Hampshire.
The rules panel expects to vote on the proposal this weekend.
Black, Hispanic voters excluded?
Critical Democratic constituencies such as blacks and Hispanics have clamored for a major role in early primary voting, arguing that Iowa and New Hampshire are hardly reflective of a diverse electorate.
Iowa’s white population is 95 percent, New Hampshire’s is 96.2 percent, according to the latest Census numbers.
“I was surprised by how deeply Hispanics and blacks feel they are not part of the process,” said Harold Ickes, a veteran Democratic activist and member of the rules committee. “I think it’s a done deal.”
Hispanics comprise more than 20 percent of the population in Nevada and Arizona. In Alabama and South Carolina, blacks make up nearly 30 percent, based on the latest Census numbers.
“The momentum for this change has been building for many, many years,” said Donna Brazile, a party activist, member of the rules committee and a black.
Still, the potential loss of pre-eminence for New Hampshire — a state that demands retail politicking skills of its candidates — has upset the state Democratic leaders and stirred resistance among some familiar names.
Clinton said last month that he opposes the addition of a caucus between Iowa and New Hampshire because he “worries about the continued compressing of the calendar robbing the candidates of the opportunity to do what they have to do.”
Opponents include powerful Democrats
Clinton said his wife, White House hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., “has exactly the same feeling I do.”
Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana said Democrats should keep the primary calendar as is, a view echoed by Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Joe Biden of Delaware, Russell Feingold of Wisconsin and former Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
Ten states plus the District of Columbia have applied: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina and West Virginia.
Blacks and Hispanics are core constituencies for the Democrats. Blacks made up 21 percent of the vote for Kerry in 2004 and chose him over President Bush by a 9-to-1 margin, according to exit polls.
Hispanics made up 9 percent of Kerry’s support and more than half of that group supported the Democratic candidate. Republicans have been gaining ground, however, securing the support of roughly four in 10 Hispanic voters in 2004.
The Democrat most responsible for pushing the changes is determined that Democrats move ahead with the changes.
“New Hampshire seems to think they have a God-given right to have the lion’s share of attention from the presidential candidates,” said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan. “There’s such a broad consensus in the party, I don’t foresee us backing off.”