It’s unclear when Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and second-place finisher in the 2004 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, is planning to return to the Granite State. But it's probably safe to assume he won’t be swinging by Bill Gardner’s office anytime soon.
“You guys need a new Secretary of State,” Dean told WKXL Concord News Radio Wednesday, when asked about the future the New Hampshire primary in light of comments from top leaders on the Republican and Democratic side calling for re-evaluation of the presidential nominating calendar.
The primary itself is a worthy tradition, Dean said, but he placed the blame for others’ skepticism toward New Hampshire squarely on Gardner, the state's long-time secretary of state and self-appointed defender of the First-in-the-Nation primary.
Among other gripes, Dean complained that Gardner has “been there too long” and has “become autocratic.” (Gardner’s 40 years in the position make him the longest-serving Secretary of State in New Hampshire history.)
“You’ve got to not make people mad at you all the time, and my own view is that you need a new Secretary of State who’s perceived as more fair, less autocratic, more reasonable,” Dean told WKXL. “But I think he’s the only person that’s jeopardizing the New Hampshire primary.”
The last month has seen a revival of a long-running debate over the sanctity of the state's lead-off status. A few weeks back, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus attracted the ire of some Granite Stater for suggesting the party might switch up its nominating calendar for future elections. Then, earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid faced pushback over claims that New Hampshire lacked the diversity or population size to kick off the presidential campaign every four years.