Thursday, February 26, 2015

Maryland Senate Committee Green Lights Minor Presidential Primary Move

The Maryland state Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs on Tuesday, February 24 passed the bill to shift the presidential primary in the Old Line state back a week on the 2016 presidential primary calendar.

SB 204 would move the Maryland primary from the first Tuesday in April to the second Tuesday in April. The bill was unanimously and favorably passed by the committee. The rationale behind the move, as confirmed in the committee hearing on the bill, was to prevent conflicts between early voting in the presidential primary and the Easter holiday in 2016.

One week moves of this sort are fairly rare. Idaho moved its primary up a week for 2012 before it eliminated the contest. A couple of states, Maryland and Georgia, took advantage of a change in Democratic National Committee rules during the 1992 cycle. The DNC moved the earliest date states were allowed to hold primaries and caucuses up a week from the second Tuesday in March in 1988 to the first Tuesday in March in 1992.

But again, this tends to be the exception rather than the rule to primary movement.



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Winner-Take-All Presidential Primary Has Support of Florida Republican Party Chair

Patricia Mazzei at the Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog:
State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, the new chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, paid a visit this week to the Miami Young Republicans to rally their support and answer their questions about the party's future.  
One of them was whether the GOP would support legislation filed in Tallahassee setting next year's presidential primary for March 15, the earliest possible date in which all of the state's nominating delegates would be awarded to a single candidate, rather than distributed proportionally.
--
Perhaps only the Rubio and Rubio-align folks that pushed the 2013 legislation in the Florida state legislature understood what the bill was doing to the scheduling of the 2016 presidential primary in the Sunshine state. It does not seem as if others in the state get it.

The way the current Florida law reads regarding the presidential primary scheduling is that the Florida primary will be scheduled for the earliest date that does not mean penalties on Florida from either/both national parties. Since the RNC has a proportionality requirement for all states with contests prior to March 15 and a 50% delegate reduction for states that violate that rule that puts the decision-making power on the date of the primary squarely on the Florida Republican Party.

If the Republican Party Florida sticks with its winner-take-all allocation plan, then the Florida presidential primary will be scheduled for March 15.

...automatically.

That does not require action by the state legislature.1 But those in the legislature pushing additional legislation on the matter and apparently the Republican Party of Florida chair do not yet realize this. The signal, though, is that Florida Republicans intend to maintain a winner-take-all allocation plan for 2016.

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1 And contrary to the outtake from Mazzei above, there has been no legislation filed in Florida regarding the primary as of now. There was talk last week of that possibility, but nothing has been filed.


Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2015/02/florida-gop-chairman-backs-winner-take-all-primary.html#storylink=cpy


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Idaho Presidential Primary Bill Pushes Through Split Committee

Odd battle lines formed in the Idaho state Senate State Affairs Committee during a hearing to discuss legislation to reestablish a presidential primary election in the Gem state on Thursday, February 25.

Democrats joined some Republicans against the bill supported by state Senate Republican leadership sitting on the State Affairs Committee. At issue in the hearing for SB 1066 was the cost to taxpayers to fund the reestablished and separate presidential primary that would be scheduled for the second Tuesday in March. The estimated $2 million price tag was too much for what was viewed by Democrats and Republicans on the committee against the bill as a party function. Betsy Z. Russell at the Idaho Spokesman-Review captured that sentiment from the hearing:
Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said, “The discussion we had today mostly spoke about one party. And I really think that $2 million from the general fund for a political practice is inappropriate, and I won’t be supporting this bill.”
Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton thought the money could be spent better elsewhere:
“We could get you better teachers if we had $2 million more a year to put in that budget than what we’re about to do here. Think about that.”
Yet, both the state Senate majority leader and assistant majority leader -- who both sit on the committee -- spoke in favor of the bill. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said in favor of the bill:
“But in this moment, I want to … provide an opportunity for every party to accept the invitation to make their process, even in a closed political voting process, as open to all who are willing to live by those rules as possible. I think SB 1066 is the closest I’ve seen so far.”
Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, is sponsoring the legislation, and despite vocal opposition to the bill on budgetary grounds, the committee found enough support to pass the bill though and recommend that it "do pass" when it is considered on the Senate floor. That is where the bill moves next.

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March 8, the second Tuesday in March in 2016, is a date on which the Michigan and Ohio primaries are currently scheduled. Neighboring Washington state is also eyeing that as a possible landing spot for its primary as well.



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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kansas Committee Divided Over Whether to Cancel 2016 Presidential Primary

The Kansas state Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections met Wednesday, February 25. On the agenda was SB 239, the bill that would cancel the presidential primary in the Sunflower state for the sixth consecutive cycle.

The path to that regular cancellation may have found some resistance during the 2016 presidential nomination cycle. The Associated Press is reporting that while a vote was not taken on the measure in committee today, committee member and Senate president, Susan Wagle (R-30th, Wichita), voiced opposition to the move.

This sets up in Kansas what was a somewhat common dispute across the country in state capitals during the 2012 cycle: a legislature potentially split over the savings associated with not holding a presidential primary (or holding a consolidated primary including a presidential preference vote) on one hand, or attempting to draw in more candidate attention/spending and encouraging wider voter participation by holding a primary on the other.

According to the fiscal note appended to SB 239, canceling the presidential primary would save Kansas $1.8 million in 2016.

However, Kansas does have some quirks to its elections law concerning the presidential primary. The only guidance the statute provides is that the secretary of state certify with the governor and the leadership in the state legislature an election date 1) on the same date as at least five other states and 2) barring that, on a date before the first Tuesday in April.

At this point in time, the only date on the 2016 presidential primary calendar before April with five or more states conducting primaries or caucuses is March 1, the target of the SEC primary.

But here's the thing: How much attention would a Kansas primary gain on a date shared with mostly southern states? Kansas would be much more likely to get lost in the shuffle on March 1, failing to garner the attention primary proponents like Sen. Wagle are seeking.

Also odd in this case is the fact that the person who would gain the most in all of this would be the Kansas secretary of state. Secretary Kris Koback (R) would be granted similar date-setting power to that of secretaries of state in New Hampshire and Georgia. But Secretary Kobach is the one spearheading the effort to cancel the presidential primary in 2016.

If there ends up being a stalemate on canceling the Kansas presidential primary, it does not look if either side would get what it wants. The history here is pretty clear though. Five straight cancelled presidential primaries is a consistent pattern and an even clearer signal about where this all may end up.




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Why North Carolina is the Biggest Threat to the 2016 Presidential Primary Calendar

FHQ runs the risk, perhaps, of over-North Carolinaing this North Carolina presidential primary situation. Yet, like Florida four years ago, it is pretty clear now, and has been for quite a while, that North Carolina was not necessarily going to play along with the established Republican National Committee delegate selection rules. Just as I harped on the fact that the RNC did not change its 50% penalty for 2012 and that Florida had already demonstrated in 2008 that that was not a sufficient penalty, North Carolina has seemingly wedged itself into a position on the calendar that may make the RNC achieving its ideal calendar more difficult.1 

It is kind of important, then, and warrants some discussion. 

As it is important, let me add to the piece that CNN's Peter Hamby has on the subject today. Whereas the Charlotte Observer's Jim Morrill added a North Carolina-level perspective, Hamby layered in some of the national party (RNC) point of view. Both are key. 

But allow me a moment to add to all of this the rationale for why FHQ views North Carolina as the biggest threat to go rogue in 2016. Hamby approached me for my perspective on the situation and I responded in typical "obsessive detail". Understandably, Hamby had a story to write that was bigger than just my perspective, but let me throw in a bit more nuance. Here is my email response to his query (edited for clarity):
North Carolina is the biggest threat to the calendar now because there is an uncertainty around the primary here that does not exist elsewhere. There are two groups of potential problem states: 1) Those that are currently rogue and 2) Those that are trying to be rogue.  
None of the states in the latter category -- those with bills or likely bills -- to move into pre-March calendar positions are really serious attempts. There has been pretty robust negative reaction to possible moves in Arizona, Texas and Vermont, and the likely Wisconsin attempt does not have the support of Republicans in the majority in the state legislature. At this point, none of that group appears to pose a viable threat. 
The first group is a little different. Those are states that have to make some change to move to a later date (or choose the later of the options available to them). In that group are Colorado, New York, North Carolina and Utah. I have no inside knowledge, but Colorado is likely to opt for the March date available to them (March 1) over a non-compliant February position. [EDIT: It has been quiet in Colorado on this question.]  
Utah is feeling the pinch on both ends of the calendar (non-compliant on both) and may switch to caucuses anyway. [EDIT: Both primary options currently available to Utah are non-compliant with RNC rules.] 
New York is only back in February on something of a technicality. The move to April in 2011 expired after 2012 which put the primary back in February. My guess is that the intention of the sunset provision was not to be rogue in 2016 so much as it was a function of providing the legislature with a reason to have to revisit the date [EDIT: in the future]. If April had been permanent, it likely would have been more difficult to get any change passed in the legislature there. Now, they have to make a change. The NYGOP wants a March 1 date.  
That leaves North Carolina. To avoid the super penalty, the North Carolina primary has to be moved to March 1 or later. You've [Hamby] reported that there are folks in the NCGOP who support keeping the primary where it is. I would wager there is similar sentiment in the North Carolina General Assembly. How much? I don't know. Sen. Andrew Brock (R), who brought up legislation every cycle to move the North Carolina primary up dating back to 2005 or so, has said he is supportive of the February date [EDIT: ...and possibly ceding delegates in the process]. Whether that support stops with him in the legislature or runs deeper is the question now. [I should add that none of the bills he introduced [EDIT: in the past] ever proposed going rogue. The primary would have been moved to the earliest allowed date in each of those cycles. He and others may be open to March 1.] 
So, there is some resistance to moving the primary, but we don't know how much. There is also support for a move back into compliance with the national party rules. And while symbolic -- the NCGOP chair and the RNC committeeman from North Carolina (Rep. David Lewis) -- that support is from the top. That may or may not be met with some hostility. Like the resistance to changing the date, we don't know how deep support for a compliant primary runs in either the NCGOP or the general assembly.  
Adding to this is the politics of the legislature. The Republicans control both chambers but the House and Senate have been at odds with each other on a number of controversial items over the past few years. [EDIT: This hypothesis was made early yesterday before the apparent House/Senate divide on the presidential primary scheduling became clear.] That tension could factor into moving the primary date. It may also require Republicans in the majority reaching over to get Democratic votes to get something passed. Democrats would likely be interested in a compliant date as well. [Though, it should be said that the North Carolina Democratic Party could file for a waiver to avoid sanction since they don't control state government. How open the DNC would be to granting that waiver is a question for further down the road. EDIT: see Rule 20.C of the Democratic Party delegate selection rules.] 
Long story short, there are just more unanswered questions regarding the North Carolina position on the primary calendar than there are for other rogue or potentially rogue states. 
Unanswered questions there may be, but what is different about North Carolina -- as compared to, say, Florida in 2008 or 2012 -- is that the Tar Heel state has not drawn a line in the sand. Instead, North Carolina has driven a stake into the ground next to South Carolina and will go wherever the Palmetto state goes. That is a different problem, one that likely means more pressure from the Republican National Committee and perhaps even some inventive tactics in South Carolina. 

Does South Carolina, for instance, mimic the tried and true New Hampshire process of blackballing candidates -- in the South Carolina campaign -- who campaign in North Carolina? If the super penalty from the national party does not work as intended, it may come to that. 

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1 And bear in mind that there is no North Carolina position on the calendar yet. Until there is a date for the South Carolina primary, there will not be a date for the North Carolina primary. All we know at this point is that South Carolina will be in February sometime and that North Carolina law call for the primary in the Tar Heel state to follow on the next Tuesday after that. 


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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

North Carolina House and Senate at Odds Over Presidential Primary Date

An inter-chamber dispute in the General Assembly may keep the North Carolina presidential primary right where it is: out of compliance with both national parties' delegate selection rules.

Jim Morrill is reporting in the Charlotte Observer that there is support for moving the primary to a later date in the North Carolina House. Not surprisingly, Rep. David Lewis (R-53rd-Harnett), the House Elections Committee chair and the national committeeman from North Carolina to the Republican National Committee, has voiced a similar opinion to that of North Carolina Republican Party chairman, Claude Pope, Jr. On moving the primary back to March 1, Lewis said,
“It makes sense, I hope the General Assembly will act accordingly. I think it will maintain North Carolina’s relevancy and have the economic boost we all hope for.”
But that support of moving the presidential primary back into compliance with the national party rules seemingly ends at the chamber door. It does not stretch across the capitol building to the state Senate. Republican control of the General Assembly has been hampered at times between competing goals between the chambers and this extends to the presidential primary debate as well. Bear in mind, it was the state Senate that added the presidential primary date change to the controversial omnibus elections bill at the last minute in 2013. With time running out in the session, the House agreed to that change to get the bill -- including the voter ID provision that is now being challenged in court -- passed.

This primary date -- tethered to the South Carolina primary -- is the Senate's baby. And it shows in the comments from proponents of the likely February primary date in the upper chamber. Sen. Bob Rucho (R-39th, Mecklenburg), who is a member of the Judiciary I Committee that handles elections matter in the state Senate had this to say (again, via Morrill),
“Why should we be losing delegates? We didn’t cut in line. We haven’t made our argument to the (RNC) yet. I don’t see why March 1 is a special date. We think the people of North Carolina should have a say in regards to the presidential contest.”
That is not an atypical argument from any state legislator whether proposing to buck the rules or just move a primary to an earlier date. But this does give us some idea of what now faces the orderliness of the 2016 presidential primary calendar. A disagreement between the chambers makes passing legislation to move the North Carolina primary that much more difficult if not impossible. If that issue is not solved, then the beef will be between North and South Carolina which will pull the national parties -- more the RNC given the partisan make up of decision-makers in the Carolinas -- further into the discussion. This situation has already seen what one might call light and indirect pressure from the RNC. The remaining pressure may come in the form of the super penalty. being levied against North Carolina Republicans if the primary is not moved.

But all may work out. If South Carolina schedules its presidential primary for Tuesday, February 23, 2016, then the North Carolina primary would follow on March 1; making everyone happy. Getting there is not that simple, though. South Carolina typically holds a Saturday primary. South Carolina Republicans also like at least a week between it and the next southern state on the primary calendar. That combination eliminates the possibility of moving the South Carolina Republican primary to the Saturday, February 27.

On top of that, how is one to interpret the North Carolina law if the state parties in South Carolina hold primaries on different dates? Does North Carolina follow the earliest primary? The Republican primary? That is not clear and there is no guidance in the North Carolina law to account for an eventuality that occurs in South Carolina more often than not.

This one could get messy before it is all said and done. But North Carolina will undoubtedly lose over 80% of its delegates if it continues on the course it is on unless the stars align to force South Carolina into an uncommon Tuesday primary.


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Democrats Pushing Challenge to New Hampshire Primary in Vermont House

Identical legislation to the Vermont state Senate bill proposing to schedule the presidential primary in the Green Mountain state for the same date as the New Hampshire primary has now been introduced in the Vermont state House.

Like S76, the House version -- H 239 -- calls for the Vermont secretary of state to schedule the presidential primary for the same date as the first in the nation presidential primary in New Hampshire. What is different on the House side is who filed the legislation. Instead of being pushed by a Progressive Party legislator (a party loosely aligned with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)), the House bill was introduced and co-sponsored by four majority party Democrats. Neither the bill's sponsor Rep. Sam Young (D-121st, Orleans-Caledonia), nor the three co-sponsors (Rep. Jim Condon (D-69th, Chittenden), Jim Masland (D-82nd, Windsor-Orange) and George W. Till (D-143rd, Chittenden)) are among the Democratic leadership in the House, but all four sit on the House Ways and Means Committee. That means there is no one sponsor to directly shepherd the bill through the Government Operations Committee (to which it has been referred). However, since the House Ways and Means Committee primarily deals with revenue coming into the state, it would seem clear that the rationale behind the bill is much the same as that espoused by the Senate version's author: to provide the state with an economic shot in the arm.

Regardless of who is promoting the bill, challenging New Hampshire's status, as FHQ has pointed out, is easier said than done. All that has changed is that there is a second version attempting to pull this off.

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March Presidential Primary Bill Moves Forward in Washington State

The effort to shift the presidential primary in Washington from May to March jumped its first hurdle in committee last week on Thursday, February 19. SB 5978 passed the Senate Committee on Government Operations and Security with a "do pass" recommendation.

The question in Washington is less about whether the presidential primary will shift from the fourth Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in March. Instead, the larger question in the Evergreen state is whether the state parties will actually opt to use the primary -- in lieu of caucuses -- to allocate national convention delegates. Washington has been a caucuses/convention state for much of the post-reform era. The presidential primary has been in place since the 1992 cycle, but has rarely been utilized by the parties.

The presidential primary was cancelled in Washington for the 2012 cycle.

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New Mexico March Primary Bill Meets Committee Roadblock

The bill to move the New Mexico presidential (and other) primaries from June to March failed to pass its first legislative test in committee on Monday, February 23.

Deborah Baker at the Albuquerque Journal has the latest on the hang up HB 346 had in the Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee. By a 6-6 vote along party lines, the legislation to shift the consolidated New Mexico primary from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June to the third Tuesday in March tabled the bill for the time being pending further amendments.

Democrats voiced some support for the idea of an earlier presidential primary, but balked at all the primaries being pushed up to a point on the calendar that would have New Mexico legislators campaigning during the state legislative session:
Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said shifting the date of the primary election from the beginning of June to mid-March would complicate many state elections, since lawmakers and other state officials are barred from raising campaign cash during legislative sessions.  
“The idea of making the New Mexico presidential primary earlier is well received, but to move all of them would be problematic,” Maestas said after today’s hearing. “The culture would change to campaign mode all the time.”
This is a conflict that often arises in other late [presidential] primary states. The best way to circumvent this impasse may be to separate the presidential primary and move that contest to March with the remaining primaries for other offices following in June. The benefit of moving all of the primaries up to March is to save money not funding a separate presidential primary election. But moving a consolidated primary may prove difficult moving forward.

The bill's sponsor has indicated he will tweak the bill in an effort to keep the idea alive.


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Monday, February 23, 2015

North Carolina Republican Party Chair Calls for March 1 Presidential Primary

Last week FHQ posed several questions that would provide us with some answers about how serious legislators are in North Carolina to maintain a non-compliant presidential primary under Republican National Committee rules. None of that has really been addressed in the scant time since, but we can add to what is known about the state of a February North Carolina presidential primary. The North Carolina Republican Party chairman is against it.

Claude Pope, Jr., in an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer added one more voice -- and a bit of dual RNC and North Carolina Republican Party heft -- to the ongoing discussion over whether the Tar Heel state will become the latest rogue state to jump in the primary calendar line. This does not tell us much about the dialog in the North Carolina General Assembly, but can easily be viewed as some light early pressure to alter the date.

Pope makes the case for shifting back the North Carolina presidential primary to March 1 (also the targeted SEC primary date) thusly:
"A newly enacted law sets our presidential primary on the “first Tuesday after the South Carolina primary.” That likely puts the primary date in February of 2016. The RNC’s rules provide a “carve-out” for February primaries for only four states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Any state that violates this rule by conducting a February primary will forfeit all but 12 delegates. There are no exceptions, and North Carolina remains out of compliance with this rule. There is a simple fix – move our presidential primary to Tuesday, March 1. 
"Our legislature had good intentions when it established a February primary date, assuming that the world would beat a path to our door – bringing national media exposure, money, and an economic boom-let to North Carolina. But the crowded field of presidential wannabes will not step foot in our state. They will not visit the fire stations or Rotary Clubs. They won’t ride in the parades, eat barbecue, kiss babies or spend their millions fighting over just 12 delegates – it simply isn’t worth the money.  
"So, goodbye economic boom-let. Goodbye to relevance, and goodbye to any influence on the national level. Say hello to the mass of disenfranchised (and very upset) grassroots activists denied once again – by the law of unintended consequences – of finally having their say in who gets selected as our party’s nominee.

"Or not."
That 12 delegates is the super penalty that is new in 2016. And what Pope describes is exactly how that penalty was intended to work: Shrink a state's delegation size to the point that it undermines candidates coming to the state to squabble over a sliver of a sliver of delegates.

As FHQ has said, the super penalty appears to be doing its job. It has cleaned up the North Carolina issue yet, but the word is getting around.


Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2015/02/23/5534348/move-nc-presidential-primary-to.html#storylink=cpy

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