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New Hampshire Official Says He Can Wait for Michigan to Settle on a Primary Date

With Michigan's plan for a Jan. 15 presidential primary in limbo, New Hampshire's secretary of state says he's still got plenty of time to set a date that ensures his state maintains its first-in-the-nation primary tradition.

"Let Michigan do whatever it wants to do, and we'll deal with it," said Secretary of State Bill Gardner, speaking at a forum Saturday at The New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College.

Wearing a "Protect Our Primary" sticker on his sweater vest, Gardner seemed unfazed by a Michigan court ruling Friday that turned down a law that would have allowed that state to hold a Jan. 15 primary. The court ruled against a provision giving political parties in Michigan exclusive access to records showing voters' names and whether they took Democratic or Republican ballots.

With time running short for election planners and campaigns, attention is focusing on a date for New Hampshire's primary, which will kick off a quick series of primaries across the country.

Gardner met with 12 other secretaries of state in Washington on Friday to discuss ways to bring order to the chaotic primary scheduling process. He said a proposal they're working on would maintain Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's primary in the first spots on the calendar, but also give larger states a prominent role in selecting party nominees.

Gardner would not say how much lead time he needs to carry out the primary after he sets the date, and he would not comment on speculation that it will likely come on Jan. 8.

"Anything I say would limit us," Gardner said. "We'd be able to do it faster than most people would think."

New Hampshire law requires that its primary be held at least a week ahead of any similar election.

Michigan lawmakers are expected to meet next week to discuss whether they will continue trying for a Jan. 15 primary, or move it to another date.

"I'm waiting for a resolution, some finality to that," Gardner said.