New Hampshire and Nevada in standoff over presidential contests

at 09:40 PM ET, 10/12/2011

Nevada’s Republican Party and New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner are in standoff over the dates of their respective presidential nominating contests.

Gardner issued a statement Wednesday afternoon urging Nevada to move its caucuses from the announced date of Jan. 14 to Jan. 17 — in order to allow New Hampshire to set its contest for Jan. 10 and avoid a December primary.

New Hampshire state law says its primary must be the first in the nation and a week before a “similar contest.” Gardner’s office has said Nevada’s caucuses meet that requirement.

“My job as NH Secretary of State is to follow our law, which mandates that I set our election 7 days or more before any event that would threaten our traditional lead-off status,” Gardner said in a lengthy statement. “So if Nevada does not adjust its caucus date to a later time, I cannot rule out the possibility of a December primary.”

Nevada’s response? No thanks.

Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) told Nevada political guru Jon Ralston on Wednesday that Gardner needs to re-read his state’s law and decide that Nevada’s caucuses aren’t “similar” to the Granite State’s primary.

“We certainly respect Secretary Gardner’s position, but we have a similar responsibility to protect our state’s rights,” Sandoval said. “A caucus is not the same as a primary election. Nevada has chosen Jan. 14, and New Hampshire could easily choose Jan. 10 for its primary and still preserve the intent of its seven-day rule as it applies to primary elections.”

Further, Sandoval said the real problem is with Florida, which was the only state to leapfrog the four early states and forced Nevada and New Hampshire to move their contests up from February.

“This issue is really about Florida, not Nevada,” Sandoval said. “Perhaps the secretary should be asking Florida to change its position.”

Gardner is not expected to make an official decision for another two weeks, creating a potentially short turn-around time for an early December primary.

 
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