McEachern on Gardner

To the Editor: I have served five terms in the New Hampshire Legislature over a period of almost 50 years. For three of those terms, Democrats were in the minority. I was a member of the ‘73 legislature that included Bill Gardner, Hugh Gallen and John Sununu. During most of my life I have been an itinerant politician. This gives me a rather unusual perspective over the current contest for secretary of state. Even so, no one has asked me for my advice. I’m inclined, however, to give it because it might add to the public discourse.

It’s been frustrating at times to understand that Bill Gardner has been nonpartisan. I say that as a Democrat. The incoming class of Democrats apparently believe that with victory comes the spoils. They should be wary of that urge. In 1979 as legal counsel to the governor I came to appreciate the reputation that Secretary Gardner had earned. In 2007 as a member of the Obama for President steering committee I was party to a conference call with Jim Messina, who was an Obama operative in Chicago. At that time Messina was furious at Bill Gardner for threatening to move the New Hampshire primary into December if necessary to maintain our status as the first-in-the-nation primary. A partisan secretary of state would not have been able to withstand the invective of the Obama campaign in my opinion.

Now we have the challenger pledging not to run for any higher office in 2020. This, in effect, is a pledge to turn the office into a partisan command post. This pledge is really a pledge to run for higher office after 2020. Bill Gardner, on the other hand, made a pledge before he took office 42 years ago not to run for any elective office ever.

I submit that this pledge has been crucial in maintaining New Hampshire’s status as first-in-the-nation presidential primary. The integrity of the voting system in New Hampshire is without peer. In another two years, hopefully will be the 100th anniversary of our status of being first. The risk of losing this milestone comes with finding a need to turn the office over to the winning party.

I often say that with my advancing years I have gained wisdom. I then add there is no demand for wisdom. In any event this is my view.

Our immediate goal should be to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our first-in-the-nation primary with Secretary Bill Gardner. I urge Democrats to reconsider.

The outcome may make New Hampshire look like states such as Kansas and Georgia.



Paul McEachern