For generations, Iowa and New Hampshire have held a special place in American politics, as Democratic and Republican are the first states to vote in the presidential nomination process. Candidates flock well past the election year to deal with steak fries and county fairs, endless town halls and happiness.
Former Nevada Senator Harry Reid and his state’s Democratic Party want to change all this. For more than a year, Mr. Reid publicly called for the primary calendar to be turned upside down – pushing Nevada, of course, to the front.
The Democratic-controlled Nevada Legislature took a step toward that goal this week, introducing a bill that would end the state’s caucus process and replace it with a primary held in late January after the presidential election. The bill is likely to be approved and signed by the government. Steve Sisolic, a Democrat. But the Democratic National Committee will determine whether Iowa (which holds the caucus), New Hampshire (which holds the primaries) or Nevada goes first (or any other state!) – a decision that likely won’t come for another year and Approval will definitely be required. President Biden, who lost to Bernie Sanders in 2020 to Nevada.
The Times recently spoke on the phone to Mr. Reid about his desire to change the calendar and make Nevada the first place in the nation to vote in the presidential election. The interview is lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Let’s start with the basic question: What is the first case for Nevada?
Well if you look at Iowa and New Hampshire and you see what Joe Biden did in those two states – he finished fourth and fifth in those two states. Iowa and New Hampshire are not representative of the country. There is no diversity. It is therefore unfair, in my opinion, as the first two primary states, because it gives a misconception of what the country really is about.
I too believe that the caucus system is as close to useless as it can be. Kak are inappropriate. The Democratic Party should get rid of all these. They are not fair.
If Nevada held the first primary in 2020, how do you think the election would be different?
I’m not saying it should be the first, but I think it should be one of the first. I have spoken to Congressman Clyburn, and I want to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that South Carolina and Nevada are two of the early states. It is not true that Iowa and New Hampshire set the tone for the election process during that cycle.
Having regional primaries I have no problem. Is more noticeable.
What can it look like?
Okay, you probably have to be in the west, you have to exclude California because there are a lot of voters, but you will have Idaho, Utah, New Mexico. So that a region would be suggested and the idea would be what we do with the regional primaries in the rest of the country. I think you might get some traction here.
Biden did not win Nevada in the Democratic nomination primaries when it was the third state to vote. Would it have been a difference for them if Nevada had voted earlier?
Zoya is rescued as he sits second in Nevada. If he did not finish second in Nevada, moving to South Carolina in the next few days would not have been very good for him. But coming in second showed his viability, and as a result of Clyburn’s endorsement by him in South Carolina, which included him in this presidential nomination.
Can you explain some of the differences between Nevada voters and Iowa and New Hampshire voters beyond racial diversity?
Racial diversity is, of course, one thing. Union membership is another item in Nevada. Number three is America’s population center heading west. It used to be that most of the American people were east of the Mississippi River. Now its the opposite. So I think it is important that people understand that the West is now heavily populated and is becoming the center of our country.
Associations are so strong in Nevada politics. Will this be the first tussle in the nation primarily because the candidates will be focused on the support of the unions, giving unions greater influence?
I think the political activity of the Union is only a part of what is going on in the state of Nevada or any other state. We have union membership, which is important, but you have the same in other states. Arizona has a strong union membership and surprisingly, even in a state like Utah, the Salt Lake region is heavily unionized.
Can you explain a little more what you said about South Carolina? Do you wish for both of them to become the first state together?
I’m not saying they’re the only ones, but my conversation with Jim Clyb is based on how Zoya performed so poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire. Then he came to Nevada and came in second, went to South Carolina and did very well. There is nothing wrong – as far as I am concerned – elections are to be held on the same day and in different states.
And of course, all of this is going to come in favor of both President Biden and the DNC and then giving Iowa and New Hampshire this big shock. Qualification doesn’t really matter if one doesn’t want to resent Iowa and New Hampshire. So how do you leave Biden and the DNC to do this and Iowa and New Hampshire?
It has nothing to do with hurting the sentiments of Iowa or New Hampshire and has everything to do with doing the right thing for the country and the Democratic Party.
Do you have any commitments to Democratic officials outside of Nevada or are you trying to get them?
Well, I’ve talked to Tom Perez a lot of times when he was chairman, so he knows how I feel. But I have no commitment, nothing that I have done. I’m just trying to spark a dialogue that I think is really important now rather than the last minute.
South Carolina has, by all accounts, been the most important factor in the last three Democratic primaries, meaning that the greatest impact on electing a nominee was on black voters. So why the case for diversity, especially from Nevada?
I believe that Nevada is a diverse state and the Black vote is really important in South Carolina, but it’s not the only thing that’s important. You know that we have a very strong union in Nevada with 75,000 members. But that doesn’t mean they are the only ones who have anything to say about what’s going on in the election in Nevada. And so is it in South Carolina. The African-American vote is really important, but you need to do other work in the state rather than capture the Black vote.
What I keep trying to achieve, why is it also affected by this? The first three states did not ultimately determine the outcome of the primary in 2020, and Biden was not really competitive in any of them. So what does it matter?
Well, of course, it doesn’t matter because he came in second place here in Nevada and it catapulted him to South Carolina with some speed.
Can you speak a little bit about what the difference is in general for what goes first? Like if you are someone who is not paying attention to politics in January in the election year, then why should you keep in mind who goes first?
I believe it focuses on the upcoming election. And I think it is important that there is representation of the states that are happening within the Democratic Party across the country.
Certainly always these jokes are due to Iowa getting all the attention to ethanol during the primary. What are the issues that you think will get a lot of attention in Nevada?
Public Lands and Tourism. Tourism is the number one, two or three, growing economic force in every state – this is an issue they need to focus on more.