New Hampshire: A Proven Primary Tradition

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The history and importance of New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Presidential primary is the focus of a new exhibition of the New Hampshire Historical Society and the New Hampshire Political Library. New Hampshire: A Proven Primary Tradition looks at the impact New Hampshire's primary has on the national Presidential nominating process and examines how the state's political culture and traditions have shaped its first-in-the-nation role. The colorful retrospective adds to our appreciation for the New Hampshire primary and reinforces the importance of our own participation in the political process.

The history and importance of New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Presidential primary is the focus of a new exhibition of the New Hampshire Historical Society and the New Hampshire Political Library. New Hampshire: A Proven Primary Tradition looks at the impact New Hampshire's primary has on the national Presidential nominating process and examines how the state's political culture and traditions have shaped its first-in-the-nation role. The colorful retrospective adds to our appreciation for the New Hampshire primary and reinforces the importance of our own participation in the political process.

According to New Hampshire Political Library President and CEO Michael Chaney, the New Hampshire primary plays an essential role in today's Presidential nominating process by providing an environment that allows voters to directly meet, question, and compare candidates.

"With a highly informed and engaged voter population, a level playing field for a wide range of candidates, and strong tradition of local civic engagement, New Hampshire is a unique crucible for national candidate readiness that strengthens the democratic principles upon which our nation is founded," Chaney said.

New Hampshire's tradition of political participation goes back to the 18th century, and its town-centered style of government encourages active participation by all. The state has held a Presidential primary since 1916, and became first in the nation in 1920. By 1952, when Dwight Eisenhower won an unexpected victory against Robert Taft, an impressive 43 percent of eligible New Hampshire voters turned out to vote in the primary. In 2004, that number was up to 74 percent.

New Hampshire: A Proven Primary Tradition gives insight into the unique character of today's New Hampshire Presidential primary by presenting it in a historical context. The exhibition is organized into five sections, each exploring a different aspect of New Hampshire politics and the primary: Defining a Political Tradition; An Engaged Citizenry; Knowledge is Power; A Level Playing Field; and The Crucible of Politics.

An Engaged Citizenry explores how participation in local government has been at the center of New England political and cultural history for almost four centuries. Town residents continue this tradition of local participation through annual town meeting day.

Knowledge is Power follows the Enlightenment ideal of an informed citizenry developed as a result of the American Revolution. The role of newspapers, radio, television and the Internet in the New Hampshire Presidential primary will be explored, as well as the fact that the New Hampshire contest is a venue in which candidates are forced to deal with voters one-on-one, shaking hands and answering questions in unscripted settings.

A Level Playing Field reflects on how successful campaigning in New Hampshire has not traditionally depended on a huge financial war chest. New Hampshire's size and its independent community tradition put candidates in touch with a wide range of voters.

In The Crucible of Politics, voters demonstrate their faith in democracy and majority rule by participating in the electoral process. New Hampshire voters consistently demonstrate record turnout that is twice the national average. The active stewardship of New Hampshire voters goes further than participating in the elections. Many of the state's citizens volunteer time and money to help their chosen candidate. Moreover, many communities and organizations ensure that candidates come to their schools, town halls and more informal community settings like living rooms to meet the candidate. No other state can match New Hampshire's per capita voter engagement.

New Hampshire: A Proven Primary Tradition is sponsored by Rath, Young and Pignatelli, Boston Private Value Investors, and the Mount Washington Resort, with the Union Leader and WMUR-TV as media sponsors. The exhibition is on view from September 8, 2007, through May 24, 2008, at the New Hampshire Historical Society's library, located at 30 Park Street in Concord, New Hampshire. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Founded in 1823, the New Hampshire Historical Society is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to saving, preserving, and sharing New Hampshire history. The Society serves thousands of children and adults each year through its Museum of New Hampshire History, research library, educational programs, publications, and outreach programs. The Society is not a state-funded agency. All of its programs and services are made possible by membership dues and contributions. For more information about the Society and the benefits of membership, visit http://www.nhhistory.org or call 603/228-6688.

The New Hampshire Political Library is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to increase civic engagement in the democratic process by promoting and preserving our unique political traditions and ensuring these traditions are passed on to future generations. Central to the Political Library's mission is the cultivation and maintenance of collections and archives on each New Hampshire Presidential primary since 1952. The Political Library also provides public education and outreach to students, scholars, the general public, and national and international media regarding the history of the New Hampshire Presidential primary and its role in the national Presidential selection process. The Political Library operates the historic Pierce Manse in Concord and administers the Kids Voting New Hampshire programs in communities across the state. For more information, visit http://www.politicallibrary.org or call 603/225-4617.

Note to the Media:
The exhibition and the staff of the New Hampshire Political Library and the New Hampshire Historical Society provided significant resources on history, relevance, and process of the first-in-the nation Presidential primary. Feel free to call on us for images, interviews, background, or an imaginative space to broadcast from during the primary.

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Jodi Wolfe

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