WASHINGTON — Nevada made its case to a Democratic National Committee panel Wednesday that the state should hold the first in the nation presidential primary, a move that would increase the Silver State’s clout in selecting a White House nominee.
Nevada officials hammered home its argument that the state should lead off Democratic presidential contests in 2024 due to racial diversity, urban and rural populations and a strong organized labor movement.
“We’re ready to be first, and we have the broad support we need to bring historic change to this primary process,” said Judith Whitmer, the Nevada State Democratic Party chairwoman.
Nevada was the first of 17 states and territories to present a half-hour case before the Democratic National Committee’s Rules & Bylaws Committee in a process that will continue Thursday and Friday.
The DNC is considering juggling its presidential contest calendar, and states are jockeying to move up in the selection window. Nevada already holds the third Democratic presidential contest, but state Democratic officials have set their sights on the first slot in the nation, supplanting Iowa and New Hampshire, states that have traditionally gone first, the former with a caucus and the latter with a primary.
“It is absolutely our goal,” said Rebecca Lambe, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who led the successful effort to move Nevada into the early window of states in 2006.
U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both New Hampshire Democrats, argued that stripping their state of the first presidential primary, established in 1916, could have political consequences in a key battleground state where a primary could benefit down-ballot races. The New Hampshire delegation handed out “goody bags” to the DNC panel.
But Shaheen emphasized that the state takes its civic responsibility seriously and the first in the nation primary “defines who we are in New Hampshire.’’
The changing face of the Democratic Party, however, has led DNC to consider a change.
Voter friendly Nevada
Nevada outlined its benefits with a video that proclaimed: “A state that looks like America today.”
Nevada’s presenters included Whitmer, Lambe, Yvanna Cancela, a DNC member and chief of staff to Gov. Steve Sisolak, and Clark County Commissioner William McCurdy, the former chairman of the Nevada State Democratic Party.
Nevada was third on the nominating calendar with with caucuses, but the Legislature changed to a primary system. Lawmakers also adopted laws to make voting easier with same-day registration, early voting and access to polling sites in an era when some states have moved to restrict voting rights.
Cancela said Nevada has “some of the most voter-friendly laws in the country.”
“Bottom line: no other state competing for first can match Nevada’s commitment to voter access,” Cancela said.
Iowa, where 2020 caucus results were so chaotic that results took days to be counted, is also arguing to keep its position. Iowa will make its case Thursday.
The New Hampshire Legislature has passed a law that requires it to hold its primary first, even if it must be moved into the preceding year.
But the Rules & Bylaws Committee made clear before presentations that the DNC could punish a rogue state primary by failing to recognize delegates.
New Hampshire pitched its rich tradition of holding the first contest, with presidential aspirants meeting voters in living rooms and neighborhood events to field questions as wide ranging as foreign policy to local trash collection.
Nevada officials, though, said their state also is conducive to retail politics, with both urban populations surrounding Las Vegas and Reno, and rural communities.
The state also has a strong presence of organized labor, a traditional Democratic voting bloc. Nevada’s workforce union membership was 12.1 percent in 2021, compared to 10.3 percent nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
One of the state’s most influential unions, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, on Wednesday urged the DNC to move Nevada to the first position on the calendar.
Nevada also boasted of the state’s diversity that more closely resembles and represents the nation as a whole.
Nevada ranks as the third most diverse state in the nation. Whites account for 48 percent of the population, Hispanics make up 29.2 percent, those of African-American descent make up 9.8 percent, and Asian and Pacific Islanders are more than 8 percent of the population, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
The state also is home to members of 27 Native American tribes.
“Many states this week are going to make claims about their diversity,” McCurdy told the DNC panel. “We are a majority-minority state, the third most diverse state in the country. We are a microcosm of the country, and a reflection of America’s present and future.”
Democrats in states seeking a larger role in the 2024 presidential selection process argue that Iowa and New Hampshire lack diversity.
Colorado, Maryland, Washington, Michigan and Puerto Rico are also interested in hosting the first primary. Other states under consideration include Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Texas.
The DNC committee is expected to recommend its roster of early states in July, with adoption expected in early August.
Republicans have already set their calendar, staying with the traditional lineup of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, although on the Republican calendar, South Carolina and Nevada are flipped.