Senate Elections: New Hampshire Lawmakers Propose Changes To Candidate Selection

A group of New Hampshire lawmakers -- including two tied to "birther" movement leader Orly Taitz -- are pushing a measure to partially end direct election of U.S. senators.

The lawmakers have introduced a bill calling for state legislative caucuses to select candidates for the Senate primaries, ending an almost century-old practice of Granite State residents filing to run in Senate races. State legislatures elected senators until the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913.

"This is original intent," said state Rep. Bob Kingsbury (R-Laconia), the bill's lead sponsor.

Kingsbury said the bill would align the state with the original intent of the Constitution by letting the legislature play a role in the selection of Senate candidates. He stressed that the bill would be in the same spirit as the 17th Amendment because it would leave the final say up to the voters.

Under the proposal, members of the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the state House of Representatives and the state Senate would nominate candidates for the primary ballot. Voters would then choose general election candidates. The bill would allow write-in candidates to seek Senate nominations.

Kingsbury said the bill would allow Senate candidates to work more effectively with state lawmakers.

"Being personally acquainted makes a difference," he said.

He added that he did not think a change would impact the election chances of the state's two senators -- Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Kelly Ayotte.

Among Kingsbury's co-sponsors are state Rep. Susan DeLemus (R-Rochester) and state Rep. Lucien Vita (R-Middleton), who both joined Taitz when she testified before the state's ballot law commission about challenges to President Obama's birth certificate. DeLemus was filmed challenging an assistant state attorney general over the decision to allow Obama on the ballot and demanding to see Secretary of State Bill Gardiner to discuss her belief that Obama was not born in the United States.

This is the lawmakers' second attempt to push the Senate change in New Hampshire. A plan earlier this year died on the House floor after being negatively endorsed by the state federal relations committee. The new bill is being routed to the election law committee.

Kingsbury said that he would like to see other states adopt similar Senate election plans, but noted he would not be launching a national tour to push the measure. While the legislation has not been introduced in other states, libertarian leaders have noted a desire to repeal the 17th Amendment, an idea pushed by Alan Keyes in his 2004 U.S. Senate race against Obama. Kingsbury has called himself a libertarian and has previously advocated for state bills to audit the Federal Reserve and withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA and the United Nations.

State Democrats were quick to oppose Kinsgbury's bill.

"If you ask most voters in New Hampshire they'd want the state legislature deciding fewer things," state Democratic party spokesman Harrell Kirstein said.