AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File
Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011 | 2:03 a.m.
LAS VEGAS — Nevada Republican leaders are reconsidering their Jan. 14 caucus date following a call from New Hampshire state officials for presidential primary candidates to boycott the western state — or risk losing support.
Nevada GOP Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian told The Associated Press Wednesday that state Republican leaders could reset the date amid concerns that New Hampshire might hold its first-in-the-nation primary in early December.
Nevada's decision came hours after a coalition of New Hampshire Republicans — including state and federal legislators, tea party activists and key conservatives — called on Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Ron Paul to join four other candidates in boycotting Nevada until it pushed its caucus date back four days to Jan. 17.
"We stand here today to make it very clear to our friends in Nevada, Florida and any other state that would challenge our position that we will not go quietly into the night," said Jennifer Horn, who organized Wednesday's news conference. "New Hampshire's first in the nation primary is here to stay and is entirely nonnegotiable."
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has the sole power to select the state's primary date. He said last week he is prepared to hold the contest in early December rather than squeeze New Hampshire between the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3 and Nevada's caucuses. New Hampshire state law requires its primaries to be held at least seven days ahead of any similar contest.
At the news conference, several coalition members said they would think twice about supporting a candidate who won't side with New Hampshire.
Tea party activist Andrew Hemingway accused Romney of pushing Nevada to encroach on New Hampshire's position and saying he wouldn't support any candidate who campaigns in Nevada.
"It's not an issue of this is a New Hampshire ego trip," Hemingway said. "This is a matter of democracy."
He and others argued that New Hampshire gives lesser-known and lesser-funded candidates a chance to be heard. They urged New Hampshire residents to sign an online petition and to call candidates to urge them to join the boycott.
Nevada party leaders could decide to reschedule the caucuses before Saturday, when the rank-and-file are set to vote on the matter at a central committee meeting in Las Vegas. Some party members want the date moved to Jan. 17 to make New Hampshire happy. Others want to move the contest to Feb. 4 to comply with national committee rules and avoid losing any delegates during the national Republican convention in Tampa next year.
Meanwhile Nevada Democrats announced Tuesday they were moving their primary to Jan. 14 to encourage Republicans to stand firm.