By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — As snowbanks across the state fill with campaign signs and the first-in-the-nation presidential primary heats up, the New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman met Friday with reporters to share the excitement.
Raymond Buckley, who has been the state Democratic party chair since 2007 and has attended 11 national conventions, predicted a huge turnout at the polls on Feb. 11 and a unified front to beat Republican President Donald Trump in November.
With heightened concern for election access and voter suppression, cybersecurity, and other issues, teams of people are working “around the clock” to ensure that the process is fair.
What has been different about this election cycle in New Hampshire has been its remarkable ease, Buckley said.
He said he has had to make “very few referee calls.”
“I can’t tell you how many times over previous cycles, most of my day was calling between campaigns and saying ‘please behave,'” Buckley said. “I have not had to do any of that.”
Even with the large field of candidates, it has just been remarkable “and that clearly indicates to me how quickly we will be able to reunite,” once a nominee is chosen.
“Unity is not going to be a challenge this time,” Buckley predicted.
Early primary states like Nevada and South Carolina along with Iowa and New Hampshire keep each other in the loop on events so they don’t overlap. Two events are planned in New Hampshire just in advance of the primary that are sure to bring out all candidates and a throng of international and national media.
They include a nationally televised debate the evening of Friday, Feb. 7 from Saint Anselm College. The following night, a massive event will be held at SNHU Arena in Manchester, where all candidates will be “in the round.”
There will be no teleprompter to talk with hundreds of potential voters as part of the annual McIntyre-Shaheen dinner. Tickets for that event will go on sale next Wednesday at nhdp.org.
Equal access to healthcare, women’s reproductive rights and making college more affordable are among the issues that will likely be discussed, Buckley said.
Buckley said New Hampshire is unique compared to Iowa and even other states where there is a smaller percentage of voters who go to the polls.
New Hampshire has historically had some of the nation’s highest percentage of voters.
He said there are close to 700 paid organizers and likely thousands of volunteers who will be out knocking on doors. Town Hall turnout for candidates historically increases in the days leading up to the primary.
Nearly 40 candidates are on the ballot.
“We’ve never dealt with anything nearly close to that,” Buckley said.
The fact that Julian Castro stepped out of the running and was critical of Iowa and New Hampshire voting first because they lack diversity was dismissed by Buckley who said that an African American, Barack Obama, did very well in New Hampshire.
Buckley said the citizens of New Hampshire enjoy their role, enjoy the candidates and love talking with them. There is still a lot of indecision at this point and polls have not always been good indicators, Buckley said.
“We have always had a lot of fluctuation out there,” Buckley said, and with fewer than 40 days left to voting day, it will be an interesting few weeks here in New Hampshire.