Bill Gardner, the longtime New Hampshire secretary of state who has served as his state’s chief elections official since 1976, announced Monday that he would be stepping down in the coming days.
Gardner, a Democrat, has been a staunch defender of New Hampshire’s place at the top of the presidential nominating calendar as the first state to hold its primary. Perhaps most famously, he threatened to move the state’s 2012 presidential primary to December of 2011 when Nevada tried to encroach on New Hampshire’s spot at the top of the calendar that year.
“The two previous secretaries of state have died in office, and I thought about that,” Gardner joked at a Monday press conference. “It wasn’t actually [something] I aspired to be.”
Gardner has also clashed with Democrats on voting regulations throughout the years. He joined then-President Donald Trump’s election fraud commission early in his presidency, and only narrowly survived an intraparty challenge in 2018 fueled, in part, by his membership on that commission.
(New Hampshire’s state Legislature chooses its secretary of state every other year.)
He has also repeatedly spoken out against federal Democrats’ push throughout 2021 to pass sweeping new election laws — including the For the People Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, which Senate Democrats will try to pass this month — saying it would destroy the state’s unique voting culture and could ultimately threaten its spot at the top of the primary calendar. (There are no provisions in the latter bill about primary calendar scheduling.)