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MI Dems: Why not punish NH, too?

From NBC's Chuck Todd and Mark Murray
Per the AP, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) today signed legislation into law moving up her state's primary to January 15, even though Michigan Democrats now face the prospect of losing all of their delegates to the Democratic National Convention by violating DNC rules.

And on the same day that Granholm signed this into law, Michigan Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Dingell have drafted a letter -- obtained by First Read -- asking the Democratic National Committee why it's ready to penalize states like Michigan and Florida for moving up, but not New Hampshire?

"Michigan Democrats, while disappointed our state was not selected as one of the four 'pre-window' states [IA, NV, NH, SC], announced they would abide by the DNC calendar, unless New Hampshire or another state decided to ignore the rule establishing that sequence and that calendar," Levin and Dingell say in the letter. "It didn't take New Hampshire long to say it would violate the calendar. New Hampshire's Secretary of State, with the support of the state's Democratic and Republican chairmen, indicated on August 9 that he was going to hold the NH primary before January 19, 2008. This announcement was made at a joint public ceremony and in partnership with South Carolina Republicans who had announced that they would hold their GOP primary on January 19."

More: "We object to your continued silence and acquiescence in the face of New Hampshire's stated intent to blatantly violate the DNC rules and sequence... Selective enforcement of our rule undermines the progress achieved -- to open the process potentially for all states."

*** Update *** We now have a copy of the final letter, which has a few slight changes from the draft quoted above.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
Chairman, Democratic National Committee   
Democratic Party Headquarters
430 South Capitol St., SE
Washington, DC  20004

Dear Governor Dean,

 America has many strengths.  Two of its greatest are our strong democratic traditions, and the rich diversity of our people.  We Democrats take pride in the fact that, of the two major parties, we best represent this diversity.
 
 It is therefore hard to understand how one of our most important democratic processes -- the nomination of our candidates for the presidency -- has been unduly dominated by two states, neither of which is particularly reflective of this diversity.

 New Hampshire and Iowa have had a hugely disproportionate impact on our presidential nominating process, with more access to candidates and visits from candidates than probably all the other states combined during the primary and caucus season.  Other states, including Michigan, have issues critically important to them.  These states would like candidates seeking their support to understand and address these issues, and urged the DNC to make the process more democratic and thereby more reflective of our diversity.

 The DNC approached this issue cautiously and with due diligence.  A Commission representing diverse party constituents was appointed to make recommendations.  The Commission then held a series of comprehensive public hearings.  Ultimately, the Commission recommended a modest change in the traditional schedule, which New Hampshire opposed. It recommended that two caucuses be held, then two primaries, and then the "window" for the rest of the states would open.

 On August 19, 2006, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) set the dates for the selection of delegates to the 2008 Democratic nominating convention as follows:

· at Iowa caucuses held no earlier than January 14, 2008;
· at Nevada caucuses held no earlier than January 19;
· at a New Hampshire primary held no earlier than January 22; and
· at a South Carolina primary held no earlier than January 29.

The rest of the states could then hold their caucuses or primaries to select their delegates after the opening of the "window" on February 5, 2008.

Michigan Democrats, while disappointed our state was not selected as one of the four "pre-window" states, announced we would abide by the DNC calendar, unless New Hampshire or another state decided to ignore the rule establishing that sequence and that calendar.

 On August 9, New Hampshire's Secretary of State, with the support of the state's Democrats, indicated that he was going to hold the New Hampshire primary before January 19, 2008, a clear violation of the DNC rules.  This announcement was made at a joint public ceremony and in partnership with South Carolina Republicans who had announced that they would hold their GOP primary on January 19.

 One of New Hampshire's purposes was to push the New Hampshire primary ahead of the Nevada caucus which the DNC's rule had scheduled for January 19.  New Hampshire's transparent action reflected its determination to maintain its privileged position of going immediately after Iowa, despite the DNC calendar.

 Those of us who fought hard to loosen the stranglehold of New Hampshire on the process saw you stand by silently.

 But when the Florida legislature changed the date of the Florida primary to a date before the window opened, you promptly determined to punish Florida Democrats by threatening to not seat their delegates if they abided by their legislature's decision.  You still maintained public silence about the New Hampshire Secretary of State's decision to violate the DNC rules, a decision, again, which was supported by New Hampshire Democrats.

 In the past, New Hampshire maintained its discriminatory privilege and dominating role because our party would not take them on and because of the gun that New Hampshire holds to candidates' heads, insisting that they pledge not to campaign in any state that encroaches on their primary.

 Our national party began the process of taking that gun away from the heads of our candidates when we changed the sequence and put New Hampshire third instead of second in the period prior to the opening of the window.  The battle that we fought was over the sequence of the primaries and caucuses.  New Hampshire either pushing ahead of its assigned position or increasing the distance between its primary and the opening of the window for the rest of the states violates the purpose of the rule.

 It was a hard won, albeit partial, victory, allowing our party to better reflect the diversity of America and to begin to inject some fairness in a process for states whose role had been diminished election after election by the dominance of two states.

 Michigan Democrats are determined to fight to maintain that victory.  We object to your continued silence in the face of New Hampshire's stated intent to violate the DNC rules.  As Chairman of the Democratic Party, you had the obligation to state your intent to apply the rule to New Hampshire Democrats when its Secretary of State announced his intention to move the New Hampshire primary prior to January 19.  Selective enforcement of our rules undermines the progress achieved -- to open the process potentially for all states.

 We have not seen any public statement from the DNC following New Hampshire's announcement on August 9 that they would move their primary before January 19 in clear violation of the DNC rules.   Your silence in the face of New Hampshire's action is a stunning contrast to the DNC's reaction to Florida.

 In the face of New Hampshire's decision to violate the DNC rules and your silence concerning that decision, and given our strong feelings about the need to reform our nominating process to make it fairer, Michigan's Democratic leadership decided to elect our delegates on January 15, 2008, the date the Michigan legislature set for the Michigan primary.  (See attached statement.)

 Someone has to take on New Hampshire's transparent effort to violate the DNC rules and to maintain its privileged position. Hopefully the DNC will, and you will, promptly urge our candidates to stop campaigning in New Hampshire because of the New Hampshire's expressed intent to violate the DNC rules.

 New Hampshire's gun remains at our candidates' heads and they fear the repercussions to their campaigns in New Hampshire if they don't sign the New Hampshire pledge -- dramatic proof, if any more were needed, of the disproportionate impact of the New Hampshire primary.

 Maybe Florida will join us if we have to take our case for the seating of our delegates to the Democratic convention in Denver.  And maybe Nevada will insist on maintaining the number two position assigned to it.  Maybe one or more of our Democratic candidates will join us.  In any event, there cannot be one set of rules for New Hampshire and one set for every other state.  We are determined that Michigan not be bound by rules that are not effectively enforced against other states.

   Sincerely,

   Carl Levin and Debbie Dingell