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MY TURN

'Let's shake things up: Let Roemer, Karger debate'

They're actually saying something different

The WMUR/ABC presidential primary debate in Manchester tomorrow and the NBC-Facebook debate in Concord on Sunday could show New Hampshire to be the special decision-maker that it is. But to do so, those debates have to change the game a bit, rather than be merely a rerun of the dozen debates held during the past six months.

This is the time to make our primary more relevant than any of the other forums and debates to this point and rewrite the contest - which we often do.

Inviting former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer to the table would draw attention to an issue that he has been focusing on: campaign financing and where the money to buy the presidency comes from. It's long overdue. And it can be done by just an invitation.

When I wrote the 1975 law guaranteeing that the New Hampshire primary would always be seven days or more before similar events, I did so with the realization that having candidates run in a small state would give a chance to those who didn't have vast financial resources. Our primary has worked well, giving Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, among others, a start - even though they were outspent by their opponents and were less "popular" in national polls at the time they ran.

It takes a bit of daring to invite a "new" candidate to the debates at this point, but our state is different than others, and it's about time other issues come to the forefront.

In addition to Roemer, Fred Karger has also been running a serious statewide campaign. He should be invited to the table as well.

Karger has a different view on social issues than the rest of the Republican field, and that could generate a broader, more meaningful dialogue - which should be the goal of any debate.

Reagan, who earned national attention when he reminded people "I paid for this microphone" when he wanted to include others in a 1980 debate just before our primary, would be proud of our state's being more inclusive.

Doris "Granny D" Haddock, a New Hampshire treasure who walked across this country at age 90 in the fight for campaign finance reform, would also be proud to see that the issue dear to her is being seriously discussed in 2012. She spoke of the corruptive influence and power of corporate and special interest funding of the political process. Let's hear more.

Encouraging a national discussion on that issue as a result of New Hampshire's primary this year would be an excellent way to show why we continue to be important and relevant to the process.

It would help us make the case that all candidates need to run here in 2016 and beyond.

(Jim Splaine of Portsmouth is a former state representative and senator. He sponsored the 1975 law and several updates since then that guarantee the state's leadoff primary status.)

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