By Andrew Cahill
It seems no matter where the New Hampshire mini-term group travels, everyone they encounter knows of Bill Gardner.
Gardner is the Secretary of State in New Hampshire and has held that office since 1976, as he has been continually elected by the state legislature every two years. Having served in that capacity for the past 35 years, Gardner is the longest serving Secretary of State in New Hampshire’s history. Though he carries out many duties, his most pressing job is to ensure that New Hampshire remains the state with the first presidential primary election every four years.
Prior to the group’s trek northwards to the Granite State, Professor Zoe Oxley, who created and orchestrated the mini-term, was worried that Gardner was going to move the primary from early January to December. If he had, the mini-term would have effectively have been hindered, as the group would have missed out on the campaign experience in anticipation of the primary.
In order to ensure that New Hampshire remains the first primary, Gardner fought off states such as Nevada and Florida, which both attempted to infringe upon the state’s most cherished political tradition.
Upon meeting Gardner in his office on the second floor of the New Hampshire Statehouse in Concord this past week, he greeted the group as he had all of the presidential candidates who have ventured into his office every four years to ceremoniously file their primary paperwork. Gardner asserted the group of importance of maintaining New Hampshire’s status as nation’s first primary, as he firmly believes it provides an opportunity that no other state does.
In New Hampshire, it costs only $1000 to have your name placed on the primary ballot for president. “It’s all about the little guy,” Gardner stated. In that lies the beauty of the New Hampshire primary, as anyone who wants to be on the ballot has the chance to potentially become the President of the United States.
Gardner cited former president Jimmy Carter as the perfect example of the opportunity the New Hampshire primary provides. He noted that Jimmy Carter fit the profile of a “little guy” because “nobody had any idea who Jimmy Carter was,” and he subsequently came into New Hampshire with modest support. But Carter invested a great deal of time campaigning in the state. Gardner highlighted the fact that Carter paid his campaign staffers in peanuts and slept in the homes of over seventy people in his attempt to win New Hampshire.
“Carter would not have had a chance at the presidency without New Hampshire,’ Gardner said.