New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is urging Utah lawmakers to reject a bill that would try to put the Beehive State ahead of Iowa or New Hampshire in the presidential primary race, arguing that New Hampshire’s 100-year-old contest is the best test of candidates. A House committee this week advanced HB410, providing that if Utah wanted to fund an early presidential primary, it must do so a week before any similar balloting. It’s a clear shot at New Hampshire and Iowa, both of which grab the attention of the national news media and major candidates for months. Rep. Jon Cox, R-Ephraim, says it’s unfair for those two states to always get the spotlight and Utah could actually play a role in electing the next president. But Gardner, who by law must place the New Hampshire primary a week before any similar contest, says his state’s contest allows all candidates to compete on the same level, working town markets and holding house parties instead of campaigning through major television ads and fly-in-fly-out stump speeches.
“I’ve heard the arguments over the years and I wish they wouldn’t,” Gardner said when told about the Utah bill. “I would hope that another state wouldn’t do it.”
There are benefits to holding the first contests in the presidential race, and New Hampshire is full of reminders of them. Walk into a diner in Manchester and you’ll find pictures of the owner with a variety of presidents and presidential wannabes, small-town newspapers command serious attention from candidates and voters get ample opportunities to ask specific questions of those they may vote for.