CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A presidential primary filing period marked by lights, cameras and (in)action has come to a close at the New Hampshire secretary of state’s office.
Two weeks before he dropped out, former Vice President Mike Pence was the only candidate to have his own studio lights shining on him as he signed up for the yet-to-be-scheduled Republican contest next year.
Former President Donald Trump’s staff ripped up tape from the carpet that reserved spots for local journalists and put his campaign photographer up front instead.
President Joe Biden skipped signing up altogether, in deference to changes that the Democratic National Committee is making to the nominating calendar.
While Biden will rely on a write-in campaign, the Democratic ballot hardly will be blank. U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota simultaneously announced his campaign and signed up to get on the ballot on Friday, the final day of the filing period. Self-help author Marianne Williamson filed her paperwork Oct. 12.
But wait, there’s more.
There will be 21 names on the Democratic ballot and 24 on the GOP ballot. That is fairly routine in New Hampshire, where there is one state lawmaker for every 3,400 people. In 2020, 33 Democrats and 17 Republicans signed up. The all-time high was in 1992, when 61 people got on the ballot.
The simplest path to get on the New Hampshire presidential primary ballot is to submit a Declaration of Candidacy and pay a $1,000 filing fee. The minimal filing requirements usually result in a crowded field.
“For any person who in the fourth grade had the dream to grow up and be president of the United States, New Hampshire is a place where they can come and try to make that happen,” said Secretary of State David Scanlan. “And that certainly is reflected by the large number of lesser-known candidates that we have file for our presidential primary.”
The entries included Republican Rachel Swift, who showed up in a skirt and top decorated with American flags and said her platform includes legalizing marijuana and prostitution, ending human trafficking and reengineering Ford Focus cars to run for 30 years and a million miles. Democrat Terissa Bukovinac, who appeared surprised to have an audience of reporters when she signed up, wants her party to join the push to outlaw abortion.
“I am hoping to bring visibility to to the victims of abortion and help create a strong place for pro-life Democrats in the political sphere,” she said.
In addition to Trump and Pence, the Republican ballot will include the six other candidates who qualified for the most recent debate: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and business entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
New Hampshire has held the nation’s first presidential primary for the past century, successfully fending off challenges from other states, thanks in large part to a New Hampshire law that gives the secretary of state sole authority to set the date and mandates that it be at least a week before any similar contest. In 2024, New Hampshire will defy a new Democratic calendar that has South Carolina leading off presidential primary voting on Feb. 3 and Nevada going three days later.
The changes, made at Biden’s request, are meant to better empower Black and minority voters by leading off in a state with more people of color than New Hampshire has. Scanlan counters that no state truly represents the nation’s demographics and that New Hampshire deserves to stay first for a multitude of reasons: It’s neither red nor blue, it’s a small state geographically and it has a small media market. Voter turnout is high and citizens are engaged, he said.
“Whether it’s the president or the former president or if it’s one of the lesser-knowns that have come in, if that person walks down Main Street and wants to engage with a New Hampshire voter, they’re going to be received and treated politely and with respect,” he said. “That’s the role we play.”