CONCORD — A storied tradition continues when Secretary of State Bill Gardner opens his office at 8 a.m. Wednesday, kicking off the candidate filing season for the 2020 first-in-the-nation primary.
New Hampshire is not only one of the easiest states in the country to cast a ballot, it has some of the lowest barriers to becoming a presidential candidate.
“All you need to do is sign some paperwork and give us a $1,000 check; it’s that simple,” Gardner said during an interview Tuesday.
This primary is the 100th anniversary of New Hampshire going first on the calendar in 1920.
The Granite State’s first primary in 1916 held on Town Meeting Day in March came after some earlier primaries that year.
Voters have been casting ballots directly for candidates since 1952 and every person elected President since then has won at least one New Hampshire primary.
Gardner had a special poster created for the centennial.
“Some believed TV would diminish the value of the primary in the ‘60s and ‘70s but it didn’t happen. Some thought the internet and then social media would do it in the 1990s and 2000s and that didn’t happen. We’ve made it through 100 years without scandals, blemishes or miscounts,” Gardner wrote.
“It will last another 100 years if the people of our great state have the will to keep it.”
Candidates will sign up standing behind the stationery desk of the late State Rep. Stephen Bullock, a Richmond farmer who authored that first primary law in 1913.
Gardner said he considers the three founders of the primary to be Bullock, the late NH House Speaker Dick Upton who authored the law in 1948 to vote directly for candidates and former State Sen. and Rep. Jim Splaine, the Portsmouth Democrat who wrote the 1975 law to preserve the primary and beat back campaigns from leaders of other states trying to strip New Hampshire of its influence.
The greatest defender of the primary was the late Gov. Hugh Gregg of Nashua, Gardner said.
Gregg and Gardner co-authored a book on the primary’s history.
Mark Stewart, a 55-year-old, Farmington, Conn., Democrat said he intends to be the first one in the door to sign up Wednesday, as he was in 2016.
At that time, Stewart said he most closely identified with conservative, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul and called himself an IED — an “increasingly-embarrassed Democrat.”
The first major candidate planning to file Wednesday is Democrat and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Gardner said he believes this season will attract at least a few dozen, if not more hopefuls.
“The range of candidates has been between the mid-30s and the low-60s,” Gardner said.
“In 2016 we had 17 Republicans who were officeholders in their own right sign up. I’m not sure we will have quite that many major Democrats, but we’ll see.”
There were 58 candidates who filed in 2016, just below the record of 62 that ran in 1992 — 25 Republicans, 36 Democrats and one Libertarian in the year Bill Clinton became the “comeback kid” here and went on to unseat President George H. Bush.
“This was a bit of a surprise because usually the greatest number of candidates is when there is no incumbent running but of course there was with President Bush in 1992,” Gardner said.
Candidates can sign up until Nov. 15 at 5 p.m.
All the major candidates will show up in person except for President Trump who is sending Vice President Mike Pence to represent him on Nov. 7.
Candidates who have not yet said when they will come to file are billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, D-Calif., former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, D-Texas, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, D-N.Y., and former Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.
Here’s the tentative calendar for when the other major candidates are expected to arrive and make their candidacy official:
• Thursday, Oct. 30: Sen. and 2016 NH primary winner Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.;
• Monday, Nov. 4: Author and educator Marianne Williamson, D-Calif. and former U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.;
• Tuesday, Nov. 5: Radio talk show host and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill.;
• Wednesday, Nov. 6: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.;
• Thursday, Nov. 7: Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Pence appearing for President Trump;
• Friday, Nov. 8: Former Vice President Joe Biden, D-Del. and former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas;
• Tuesday, Nov. 12: Gov. Stephen Bullock, D-Mont.;
• Wednesday, Nov. 13: Former Gov. Bill Weld, R-Mass.