Move over Iowa. New Jersey Democrats vie to hold early presidential primary.

They wrote a letter to the DNC making the request.

March 17, 2022, 3:05 PM

As the Democratic National Committee considers changes to its primary calendar, New Jersey Democrats are pitching themselves for consideration as one of the early presidential primary states.

In a letter sent Wednesday afternoon to DNC Chair Jamie Harrison, New Jersey Democratic State Committee Chair LeRoy J. Jones, Jr. asked Harrison to consider New Jersey, suggesting the traditional lineup, which leads with Iowa caucuses, is outdated.

ABC News reviewed the letter, which was also sent to the Rules and Bylaws Committee along with their co-chairs, Lorraine Miller and James Roosevelt Jr.

PHOTO:A voter leaves a polling location in Hoboken, N.J. during the primaries, July 7, 2020.
A voter leaves a polling location in Hoboken, N.J. during the primaries, July 7, 2020.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

"Moving to a new, modernized presidential nominating system would send a strong message that the Democratic Party is focused not on the past, but on the future. Our party cannot cling to outdated traditions that do not help us reach new voters and motivate the diverse coalition of supporters needed to win elections and enact our pro-middle class agenda," Jones Jr. writes.

Jones Jr. argues New Jersey presents a cost-effective alternative for candidates who find other early states' media markets too expensive, as well as a diverse state that captures many of the party's key demographics.

"No other state affords its residents the opportunity to wake up in a city, spend the day hiking on a rural trail or mountain, and then enjoy an oceanfront view for dinner the way that New Jersey does — making our state the ideal proving ground for political candidates across urban, suburban, and rural settings. In many ways, we are truly a microcosm of the country," Jones Jr. writes.

The DNC declined ABC News' request for comment.

Iowa's first-in-the-nation status has been critiqued by Democrats for years, and attacks sharpened during the last election cycle in large part due to its lack of racial diversity. Iowa is made up of 90% white residents, according to data from the U.S. Census.

President Joe Biden's bid for office was all but written off after a stunningly poor performance at the Iowa caucuses before the 2020 election. Momentum shifted after a major endorsement in the South Carolina early state primary.

PHOTO: Engraving of the Great Seal of New Jersey, 1849.
Engraving of the Great Seal of New Jersey, 1849.
Smith Collection via Getty Images

"Our party is best when we reflect the people we are trying to serve, and it's just as plain as that," Harrison said at The DNC spring meeting. "This process will be guided by that north star."

During the event's Rules and Bylaws meeting, several members pushed for modernizing the primary process, making clear that Iowa's status was on the chopping block. Several members also expressed openness to change during the group's winter meeting in January.

"Now is not a time for us as a party to stand on tradition; now is not the time for us as a party to stand on status quo," said Rules and Bylaws member Mo Elleithee, who laid out a series of proposed guidelines for state parties to be considered in the early nominating contest.

But unseating Iowa is not a simple process, necessitating changes to state law and Rules and Bylaws members coming to an agreement on guidelines for early state waiver applicants by the DNC's summer meeting, expected in either August or September.

"New Jersey lies at the center of our party's efforts to protect our majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, with four frontline incumbent Democrats whose victories are critical to that mission," writes Jones Jr. "It is time for the Democratic Party to move boldly into the future with a presidential primary calendar that reflects the diversity of our party and nation. Let's make New Jersey one of the first primary states, and set up future Democratic Party presidential nominees for long-term success.

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