By HOLLY RAMER
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The nation’s longest-serving secretary of state who built a reputation for fiercely defending New Hampshire’s position at the front of the presidential primary calendar says he will be stepping down. The 73-year-old Bill Gardner was first elected by the Legislature in 1976. He was reelected to his 23rd two-year term in 2020 with no challengers. He said he will transfer power to Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan. In recent years, Gardner came under fire from Democrats for his participation in former President Donald Trump’s commission on voter fraud and for backing GOP legislation to tighten voter registration rules.