On the Trail: Gardner praises local officials as he runs for re-election

  • New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner looks for charts as senior deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan in their office on Wednesday morning, November 4, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER

  • New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner in his office on Wednesday morning, November 4, 2020. GEOFF FORESTER

For the Monitor
Published: 11/20/2020 5:45:04 PM
Modified: 11/20/2020 5:44:52 PM

Praised for overseeing a general election that shattered turnout records in the Granite State amid the worst pandemic in a century, longtime New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner is sharing the accolades.

“Faced with the obstacles that we had to deal with, I’m pretty proud of New Hampshire voters and our local election officials for making New Hampshire among the very best in the country in terms of turnout and accuracy of the process,” Gardner said Friday in an interview with the Monitor.

Pointing to local election officials across the state, Gardner emphasized that “they’re the unsung heroes. They’re on the front lines.”

Gardner highlighted that New Hampshire’s September state primary “allowed the local officials to experience a bit of it at a slower pace and gave them the confidence they could handle the bigger crowds expected for the general election.”

The secretary of state spoke with the Monitor the day after he announced that he would seek a 23rd two-year term as the state’s top election official. Gardner’s fate is up to state lawmakers – as the secretary of state constitutional office is elected every two years by the combined membership of the 400 member state House of Representatives and the 24 lawmakers in the state Senate. They’ll meet on Dec. 2, which is organization day for the new legislature.

Two years ago, Gardner faced the stiffest re-election challenge in decades, as he narrowly defeated former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern by just four votes on the second ballot. With less than two weeks until the vote, no one has announced a challenge to Gardner this time around.

If he wins re-election, as expected, Gardner said one of his first tasks on the to-do list is to get input from election officials across the state.

“Beginning in December, we’ve already scheduled sessions with the town clerks and city clerks across the state, and we’ve set up sessions for the supervisors of the checklist across the state – there’s three in every town – and the moderators – to talk about the things they all experienced this past year in the three statewide elections that we had,” Gardner said.

Voting by absentee ballot skyrocketed in the September primary and the November general election, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Asked if he would like to continue the temporarily rules that allowed for an easier ability to vote by absentee ballot, the secretary of state didn’t commit one way or the other.

“That’s what I want to talk to those on the frontline,” he said. “That’s what I want to get from the sessions.”

One of Gardner’s top tasks is making sure New Hampshire maintains its century-old position as the first state to hold a primary in the presidential nominating calendar. It’s been a quadrennial fight for Gardner for four decades – but it’s a battle he’s yet to lose. But it won’t get any easier going forward.

“It’s going to be first because of the law that says its going to be first,” Gardner emphasized, pointing to state law that dictates New Hampshire’s first in the nation status.

He noted that “we’ve had some easier cycles of late than we had back in the 80’s and 90’s. I don’t know where we’ll end up at the time of the next one.”

The next term would take Gardner through the end of 2022. Asked if he would seek another term in two years, to extend his tenure as secretary of state through the 2024 presidential primary, Gardner declined to answer.

We’ll see.

Ayotte takes new role in Georgia Senate runoff

Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte is joining a high profile 50-state operation to raise money for Georgia’s twin Senate runoff elections in order to maintain the GOP’s majority in the chamber.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced this week that their newly formed Georgia Battleground fund - which will be chaired by longtime Republican strategist Karl Rove, who was President George W. Bush’s top political adviser during his two presidential campaigns and in the White House – will include chairs from all 50 states.

Ayotte was named as state chair in New Hampshire. Others on the high profile list include Govs. Sean Parnell of Alaska and Doug Ducey, and Sens. Jon Kyle of Arizona, Jerry Moran of Kansas, and Rob Portman of Ohio.

Hundreds of millions of dollars is being poured into the Jan. 5 Georgia runoff elections, which will determine if the GOP keeps its Senate majority or if the Democrats will control both houses of Congress as well as the White House.

The current balance of power for the next Senate —  coming out of this month’s elections — is 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats. That means the Democrats must win both of Georgia’s runoff elections to make it a 50-50 Senate, in which Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote, giving her party a razor-thin majority in the chamber.

In Georgia, where state law dictates a runoff if no candidate reaches 50% of the vote, Republican Sen. David Perdue narrowly missed avoiding a runoff, winning 49.75% in the vote. Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff trailed by roughly 87,000 votes. In the other race, appointed GOP  Sen. Kelly Loeffler captured nearly 26% of the vote in a whopping 20-candidate special election to fill the final two years of the term of former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson. Democratic candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock won nearly 33% of the vote.

For Ayotte, the announcement puts her back in the political spotlight – amid speculation she could potentially run in 2022 for her old Senate seat, or possibly for governor if three-term GOP Gov. Chris Sununu doesn’t run for election.

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