New Hampshire Secretary of State, Longest Serving in U.S., Is Retiring

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The official, Bill Gardner, a Democrat, has served arsenic caput of authorities successful New Hampshire for much than 4 decades.

Bill Gardner was archetypal  elected arsenic  New Hampshire’s caput   of authorities   successful  1976.
Credit...Holly Ramer/Associated Press

Trip Gabriel

Jan. 3, 2022, 7:05 p.m. ET

Bill Gardner, who for decades arsenic caput of authorities has fiercely defended New Hampshire’s close to clasp the country’s archetypal statesmanlike primaries, said connected Monday that helium would measurement down aft 45 years.

Mr. Gardner, a Democrat archetypal elected successful 1976, had mostly enjoyed bipartisan support, adjacent arsenic the occupation of caput of authorities — each state’s apical elections head — has go much political, a nationalist inclination accelerated by erstwhile President Donald J. Trump’s mendacious claims of wide voting fraud.

Mr. Gardner, 73, said governmental reasons did not unit his decision, nor was his wellness a factor, though helium reflected during a quality league successful the Statehouse successful Concord connected being the longest-serving caput of authorities successful the state — 1 of lone 4 New Hampshirites to clasp the occupation since 1929.

“The 2 erstwhile secretaries of authorities died successful office,’’ helium said. “I thought astir that. Was I going to beryllium 1 similar that?”

Asked astir the aboriginal of New Hampshire’s statesmanlike primaries, which each 4 years bring a question of nationalist attention, wealth and visitors, Mr. Gardner predicted different states mightiness effort to leap the line, but said the Granite State would proceed to beryllium first.

“There volition beryllium challenges,’’ helium said. “They’ll find caller ways to effort it. But it should beryllium OK.”

Among immoderate Democrats, successful particular, determination is simply a tendency to dethrone New Hampshire from its premier electoral spot, arsenic good arsenic Iowa with its earlier caucuses, due to the fact that some states are whiter, older and much agrarian than the state arsenic a whole.

An enduring obstacle is New Hampshire authorities law, which requires its superior to beryllium held earlier immoderate akin contest. Mr. Gardner, who held the sole powerfulness to acceptable the superior date, had said that if different authorities tried to get ahead, helium would simply determination up New Hampshire’s day into December oregon adjacent November.

Mr. Gardner escaped Mr. Trump’s run of idiosyncratic insults and unit successful 2020, aimed astatine different predetermination officials successful battleground states that President Biden won, apt due to the fact that the contention successful New Hampshire was not particularly close.

However, aft Mr. Trump made the baseless assertion successful 2016 that “millions” of amerciable votes had been formed by noncitizens crossed the country, Mr. Gardner agreed to articulation a committee that Mr. Trump acceptable up to investigate. His determination to articulation the commission, adjacent aft Mr. Trump falsely claimed that helium had won New Hampshire, was sharply criticized by immoderate of his chap Democrats. The committee disbanded aft galore states refused to cooperate with what they considered to beryllium intrusive requests for voters’ information.

Mr. Gardner defended the committee astatine the time, and his relation connected it, saying helium had hoped the “facts would extremity up speaking for themselves” astir the deficiency of fraud. On Monday, helium reiterated his content that the committee was meant to reconstruct Americans’ eroding spot successful predetermination results.

But astatine the time, Democrats’ disappointment implicit his relation led to the astir superior situation that helium faced for re-election, successful 2018, erstwhile different Democrat, Colin Van Ostern, astir unseated Mr. Gardner.

New Hampshire’s caput of authorities is elected each 2 years by the rank of the authorities legislature. Mr. Gardner’s existent deputy, David Scanlan, volition instrumentality implicit this week until the legislature holds its adjacent election.

On Monday, praise for Mr. Gardner came from leaders of some parties.

“Secretary Gardner has fiercely defended our superior implicit the years, ensuring that Granite Staters play a captious relation successful our country’s governmental elections,’’ Donna Soucy, the Democratic person of the State Senate, said successful a statement.

Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, said that New Hampshirites “owe a tremendous indebtedness of gratitude” to Mr. Gardner’s medication of elections that were “always open, fair, accessible and accurate.”

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