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January 28. 2014 5:57PM

Two years out, New Hampshire looks to prepare for first-in-the-nation presidential primary’s 100th

CONCORD — Key lawmakers want to plan ahead to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first New Hampshire Presidential Primary in 2016.

House Speaker Terie Norelli, along with House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, and Senate President Chuck Morse and House Minority Leader Sylvia Larsen, are sponsors of a bill to establish a commission “to encourage, plan, and coordinate appropriate events and activities commemorating the 100th anniversary.”

The first primary was held March 14, 1916.

At a public hearing on House Bill 1400 Tuesday, Norelli told the House Election Law Committee the state’s first-in-the-nation primary is a source of great pride and has put New Hampshire at the center of many historic events.

“The formation of this commission is an important step to position our state to maximize the benefits of the 100th anniversary,” Norelli said. “By planning ahead we can ensure that we properly honor and commemorate this moment in our state’s history and utilize the opportunity to promote civic participation.”

The primary was approved by lawmakers in 1913 when Rep. Stephen Bullock proposed the primary as a way to move presidential selection from the party boss-controlled, smoked-filled back rooms to the country’s citizens.

Last year, in a celebration of the passage of the law 100 years before, Secretary of State Bill Gardner, noted Bullock was not recognized for his accomplishment until 1999 when his role was described by the Keene Sentinel in a story from a meeting between Gardner, former Gov. Hugh Gregg and Bullock’s granddaughter, Edith Atkins.

Two years after Bullock’s bill passed, Rep. John Glessner of Bethlehem introduced a bill to change the date of the primary from the third Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in March to align with town meeting day to save money.

In 1952, Rep. Richard Upton of Concord introduced a bill that added the names of the presidential candidates and the primary began attracting legions of presidential hopefuls and a gaggle of states who wanted to be first.

HB 1400 establishes a 16-member commission to oversee the 100th anniversary of the primary.

grayno@unionleader.com


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