At the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office filing to appear on the Democratic presidential primary ballot, Rep. Dean Phillips told NHJournal that, if elected president, he would return the state’s contest to its First in the Nation status.
“Yes. I believe in tradition,” Phillips said.
“I think that our entire country can and must learn from New Hampshire,” the three-term congressman said. “I think it’s the most civically-engaged state in the entire country for this reason: There’s a culture of participation. You have a history, a tradition, an imperative of assessing presidential candidates.”
“Just one state. But it’s the beginning state. I’m a Democrat who believes in tradition,” Phillips added.
Earlier this year, Biden pushed a new primary calendar through the Democratic National Committee that stripped Iowa and New Hampshire of their traditional spots at the front of the line. They’re also states where Biden performed badly in 2020. Biden’s calendar made South Carolina the first primary for the Democratic Party.
It didn’t take. With bipartisan support, the Granite State will still hold the First in the Nation primary — most likely on January 23 — but Biden refused to file a declaration of candidacy and his name will not appear on the ballot.
Despite Biden’s treatment of the state’s Democrats, party officials like state chair Ray Buckley and Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen have pledged to deliver a write-in ballot victory for the incumbent president.
Supporting the New Hampshire primary is just one area where Phillips broke with Biden on Friday. The 54-year-old Democrat also decried the “chaos at the border,” rejecting Biden administration claims that “the border is secure.”
“We have chaos at the border that I think Democrats are somehow afraid to address because they feel they might lose their seats if they do what the country needs, which is security at the border,” Phillips said.
His statement comes as Granite State Democrats and progressive allies are attacking Republicans for their focus on border security and illegal immigration. Local Democrats have dismissed it as a “fake issue” invented by New Hampshire Republicans. New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman Ray Buckley called GOP concerns about immigration enforcement “fascist fearmongering” and “thinly veiled racism.”
And this week a group of Democrats and progressives denounced a Sununu administration proposal to spend $1.4 million in state money on a Northern Border Task Force to support federal border enforcement.
Asked about Democrats dismissing border security concerns as racism, Phillips praised America’s Border Patrol agents and called Buckley’s border stance “inhumane.”
“Having been to the southern border twice, it is not secure. It is inhumane. It’s not fair to those who are seeking refuge. It is not fair to our Border Patrol agents who have shown extraordinary mercy and humanity in ways that I wish more Americans saw. And they’ve been demeaned by Democrats,” Phillips said.
“I’ve seen young women carrying babies across the Rio Grande, and I’ve seen how American border patrol agents embrace them. I have seen babies who are unaccompanied in strollers, in facilities who are cared for by American border patrol agents.
“So for Democrats — for someone to accuse those who care about border security as being ‘racist,’ I think those people are actually the inhumane. And I think we can do better.”
Asked about Phillips’ statement, Buckley and the state party spokesperson refused to comment.
Phillips made it clear he has no interest in attacking Biden, and he will support the Democratic Party’s nominee, no matter who it is. He specifically rejected suggestions he might join the No Labels plan for a third-party ticket if the two major parties give America a choice between Biden and former President Donald Trump. He wouldn’t do anything that might help Trump return to the White House, calling the former president an “existential threat to our democracy.”
In fact, the entire reason for his campaign is his belief that Biden’s physical infirmity and fading poll numbers make nominating him again in 2024 too risky, raising the likelihood of another Trump term.
“President Biden has been serving in Washington for 50 years. I think I was three years old when Biden was elected to the Senate,” Phillips said. “I’m doing this because I’m listening to people around the country who are saying they want a change, they want a new generation, that it’s time to go to the future.”
After filing his paperwork, Phillips addressed a small crowd made up mostly of staff and reporters outside the state house in Concord. He was joined at his campaign kick-off by his wife, Annalise, his mother, DeeDee, and his two daughters, Daniela and Pia.
Also on hand was former GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, one of the founders of the Lincoln Project, known for its bare-knuckle, anti-Republican partisanship. And Phillips is getting campaign help from one of the state’s most influential Democrats, Billy Shaheen, longtime DNC committeeman and husband of U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D).