On the trail: Scanlan says he’ll seek a full term as NH secretary of state

  • NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner (left) and Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan oversee the recount at the State Archives in Concord on Nov. 16, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

For the Monitor
Published: 1/9/2022 2:22:44 PM

With elections for governor, the U.S. House and Senate, and the state legislative and executive council just 10 months away, incoming New Hampshire Secretary of State Dave Scanlan says he’s going to be focused on making sure the state continues to have a voting process that is fair and accurate.

Scanlan, a former Republican state representative who’s served as deputy secretary of state for two decades under Secretary of State Bill Gardner, tells the Monitorthat he’s tentatively scheduled to succeed Gardner on Monday.

Gardner, the longest serving secretary of state in the nation and the chief protector of New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary, made national headlines last week when he announced the he would be stepping down in the coming days after 45 years on the job.

While Gardner’s announcement was a shock to many, Scanlan said “it was not a complete surprise to me.”

He noted that Gardner “started giving indications around Thanksgiving” that he was considering retiring.

Scanlan acknowledged that Gardner’s departure “creates a void,” but he said that his mission going forward is to “stick to the fundamentals and get the job done.”

“The first thing we want to do is make sure we run an election that is fair and accurate. We’re going to be completely focused on that,” he said.

Scanlan, pointing to comments Gardner made during his retirement announcement, emphasized that another priority is “doing what we can to restore confidence in the eyes of the voters of how our elections are run in not only in New Hampshire but nationwide. We’re going to have to work up strategies to make sure that happens.”

Asked how he’ll differ from his longtime boss, Scanlan offered that his and Gardner’s “styles are different but the end goal remains the same.”

Scanlan will serve as interim secretary of state, filling out the remainder of Gardner’s term, which sunsets soon after November’s elections. As it does every two years, the newly elected state legislature will hold a vote for secretary of state on Organization Day.

Scanlan told the Monitor that he intends to seek a full two-year term.

Gardner, a former Democratic state representative, enjoyed bipartisan backing for decades.

But he came under fire in recent years from many New Hampshire Democrats for his participation in then-President Donald Trump’s controversial commission on voter integrity.

And his support in recent years for bills passed by GOP state lawmakers and signed into law by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu that tightened voting access rules in New Hampshire also angered many Democrats.

Gardner faced his most difficult reelection in decades in 2018, winning another two-year term by narrowly defeating former Democratic executive councilor and 2016 gubernatorial nominee Colin Van Ostern on the second ballot. He was unopposed two years later as he won his final reelection.

Asked about the likelihood of another bitterly contested election for secretary of state at the end of this year, Scanlan – who served in the state House of Representatives from 1984 until 2002 and was House majority leader during his final term in the chamber - said “I realize that could be a real possibility.”

Over the past nine months, Gardner’s spoken out in opposition to the push by President Joe Biden and U.S. House and Senate Democrats – including New Hampshire’s all-Democratic congressional delegation – to pass a sweeping election bill that would give the federal government more say in how states conduct their elections.

Gardner’s charged that if the bill became law, it could potentially threaten New Hampshire’s status as the first presidential primary state.

“I’ve already been pretty vocal on that subject myself and I share the same view that Bill has,” Scanlan noted.

“It’s not good for the state of New Hampshire. It is a federal takeover of the election process and I think it will do more to cause voters in New Hampshire to be less confident than more confident about our elections,” Scanlan argued. “The reason I say that is that bill makes voting a lot easier because it opens the process up, but it does not have the proper checks and balances to make sure that the people who are participating in election are qualified to do so.”

The federal bill is vehemently opposed by congressional Republicans, which Scanlan says raises another concern.

“It’s just being pushed by members of one party and that in itself does not instill confidence in an election because there’s a whole other party that opposes it,” he said. “If we want to instill confidence in voters, it really a should be bipartisan effort.”

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