NH secretary of state feels "no pressure" for Jan. primary

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner feels "no pressure" to set his state's primary in January but he will not make a decision on the date until next week at the earliest, he told The Hill.

"No one has pressured me to violate our state law and no one has pressured me in any way to set a date on one day or week or another," said the longtime secretary of state. "I've been setting the date since 1976, and I’m going to set it the same way that I have in the past and it’s going to honor the tradition."

New Hampshire law requires it to hold its primary seven days before a "similar election" and it traditionally holds its primary on a Tuesday. Gardner has so far taken the view that Nevada, a caucus state, qualifies as a "similar election," but Republicans are pushing him to reconsider that standpoint.

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Nevada set its caucuses for Jan. 14, prompting speculation New Hampshire would set its primary for Tuesday, Jan. 3 and pushing Iowa's caucuses into December 2011. But last week Iowa officials indicated they would set their caucuses for Jan. 3, which was seen as a way to pressure New Hampshire to pick Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Another option would be for New Hampshire to set a December 2011 primary.

Gardner, who is politically an independent, has the sole authority to set New Hampshire's primary date, and is a fierce defender of the state's first-in-the-nation status.

He repeatedly declined to comment on whether he will put the state's primary date in January or December, but said that he will strictly adhere to the state's laws requiring New Hampshire to schedule its primary at least seven days before a "similar" election.

He also said that despite reports from Iowa that their caucuses will likely be held on Jan. 3, he has not definitively heard when that date will be and is not giving them preference on the date.

"There’s not going to be another event within seven days of Nevada other than Iowa and I don’t know where Iowa will be either at this point," he said.



Last week, a Republican source told The Hill that many had begun to question the way the primary calendar system was set up, and that if New Hampshire's primary occurred in December that the next time around the nomination calendar might be drastically altered, possibly endangering the Granite State's favored status to host the first primary.

Republican National Committeeman Saul Anuzis, who is on the RNC's calendar compliance committee, told The Hill two weeks ago that the only options the RNC had were to "let the system work like it has in this laissez-faire way or come up with a reform timetable that allows some rotational plan, come up with a way to make it fair from all 50 states' perspective."

If New Hampshire's primary does move into December, there may be calls to junk the current system completely and allow for different states to lead off the primaries every year.

The GOP primary calendar went into disarray last month when Florida moved its primary date up to Jan. 31 in an effort to exert greater influence on the nomination process. The RNC has threatened to remove convention delegates from any state that moves up its primary date.

-- This post was updated at 2:32 p.m.