Former Gov. Asa Hutchinson pays the filing fee to get on the Republican ballot for the New Hampshire primary

Big names and perennial candidates mix at New Hampshire’s presidential filing

CONCORD, N.H. — Presidential candidates who want to be on New Hampshire’s primary ballot are heading to the state Capitol over the next two weeks for a traditional rite of passage that’s seeing little-known long shots and nationally prominent politicians cross paths.

Filing for president is simple in New Hampshire: A candidate signs a declaration of candidacy and pays a $1,000 fee. But the state’s pride in its first-in-the-nation primary makes it a spectacle belying the easy requirements.

The desk where candidates sign their declarations is an original piece of furniture that was in the Capitol when it first opened its doors in 1819. Reporters gather to pepper candidates with questions after they turn in their paperwork.

“New Hampshire is the one place where any United States citizen that has the desire or the dream to become president of the United States can actually try to make it happen,” New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan told NBC News.

The first person to file to be on the ballot this year was Mark Stewart Greenstein, a Democrat filing for the fourth time in New Hampshire.

Greenstein paid his filing fee in cash — or as he described, “an assortment of good presidents and nonpresidential leaders.”

He paid $400 of his fee with $2 bills, asking reporters, “Who do you think is on my favorite bill, knowing I like liberty?” The answer: Thomas Jefferson.

After signing their candidacy declarations and paying the filing fees, Scanlan asks candidates to sign the “notice to voter” form that gets posted at polling places. Greenstein wrote, “May NH always stay as FITN.”

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Greenstein said his No. 1 reason for running “is to be a candidate who is not Joe Biden.”

Mando Perez-Serrato, who also filed as a Democrat on Wednesday, offered a similar sentiment about the president. He said, “I believe Joe Biden abandoned New Hampshire, so I am here to represent the Democratic Party.”

All signs point to Biden not being on the ballot in New Hampshire, and his campaign has not indicated what his plans are. It’s all tied to the Democratic National Committee’s decision, with Biden’s blessing, to make South Carolina the Democrats’ first party-sanctioned nominating contest this year. According to New Hampshire state law, the Granite State has to be the “first in the nation” primary.

John Anthony Castro, who filed as a Republican, has also filed lawsuits in New Hampshire and other states arguing that former President Donald Trump is disqualified from the ballot by the 14th Amendment. Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits people who have previously taken an oath from holding public office if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.”

Reporters watch John Anthony Castro signs a poster after filing to get on the Republican ballot for the New Hampshire primaryJohn Anthony Castro signs a poster after having filed to get on the Republican ballot for the New Hampshire primary Wednesday. Holly Ramer / AP

Castro signed the “notice to voter” form writing, “Freedom comes from our constitution, without that, we fold.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was the first major GOP candidate to file for president on Wednesday. While walking down the hallway into the secretary of state’s office, he said, “It’s great to be here in New Hampshire. Such history along the walls. This is incredible.”

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On the notice to voters, he wrote, “America depends upon New Hampshire wisdom.”

He then went to a second room to make a statement and answered questions from reporters, many of them about the Hamas terrorist attacks and war in Israel.

As per tradition, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the notice to voters after filing on Thursday. He wrote New Hampshire’s slogan “Live Free or Die” and then signed his name. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum wrote “New Hampshire picks presidents.”

The filing period will continue through Oct. 27. The secretary of state has yet to set the primary date.

Emma Barnett

Emma Barnett is a 2024 NBC News campaign embed.