First in the Nation
By Stacy Milbouer and Tom Long
Fiddlehead Contributing Editors
The snow may drift. The wind may cut. And the temperature will surely bite. But there’s one undeniable perk to living in New Hampshire these first winter months — at least every four years — the first-in-the-nation primary, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Perk, you say? With all those persistent pollsters, robo calls and college-aged volunteers knocking on your door again and again and again? Perks like garish campaign signs that seem to persist long after the politicians have headed out of state and reporters shoving microphones in your face every time you leave a coffee shop?
No matter what your party affiliation, the primary, held this year on Tuesday, Feb. 11, is as much a part of our state as real maple syrup, downhill skiing and state-run liquor stores.
Whether New Hampshire should be given such an important place in national politics is a discussion for another column. But as Fiddleheads who believe in the importance of everything local, we have always tried to take advantage of our unique status.
Starting when our recent college grad was still in onesies, we took him into the voting booth and on the road to see candidates from all parties. Once in school we had no qualms in pulling him out of the classroom and into town halls and restaurant function rooms to see democracy in progress.
By the time he graduated from high school, junior met future presidents and vice presidents, military heroes and maybe an anti-hero or two. He’s also shaken the hands of our glorious fringe candidates like Vermin Supreme and Doris “Granny D” Haddock and New Hampshire’s own Jeff “Lobster Man” Costa.
He also met the movie stars and sports figures who accompany their candidates of choice.
And when he was old enough to vote, he jumped in and volunteered for his primary candidate of choice and learned just how mind numbing cold calling recalcitrant voters can be.
New Hampshire has held the first-in-the nation primary since 1920, but back then, that meant voting for local residents who wanted to be delegates at the party’s national convention. In 1948, the New Hampshire legislature passed a law allowing Granite Staters to vote directly for presidential candidates.
But it wasn’t until the 1970s that New Hampshire’s vote gained the focus it has now and that its citizens gained such power in kicking off a long, long election season.
Or as a report from the Brookings Institution stated during the 2016 primary — “the fact of the matter is that after all these years, the voters of New Hampshire really care about their primary. They like the attention, the visibility and the economic stimulus that it brings every four years.”