Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Where Georgia's Presidential Primary Might End Up

The AJC's Jim Galloway touched base with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp today and chatted about the presidential primary in the state. Their discussion revolved to some extent around the thinking behind the secretary's upcoming decision to set the date of the Peach state's presidential primary. This is certainly a rare glimpse into the date-setting decision-making calculus. The only other secretary of state in a similar position is New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner. And Gardner has typically played it close to the vest, holding out until the last possible threat to New Hampshire's primacy has settled on a date.

Kemp, however, broke with his Granite state counterpart and revealed some of his thoughts on the primary in reacting to recent primary news out of neighboring South Carolina and Florida.

On the possibility that the South Carolina GOP, facing financial constraints, would have to switch from a primary to a caucus, Kemp volunteered to move Georgia into the first-in-the-South primary position according to Galloway.

On Florida being allowed by the RNC to hold a primary in March, but before the allowed March 6 starting point, Kemp basically asked, "Why not Georgia?" This is a possibility that FHQ has speculated on in the past as well.

All told, what does this tell us that we didn't already know? Well, not all that much. The reason Georgia's legislature ceded the power to set the date of the presidential primary over to the secretary of state was to give the state some added flexibility in scheduling the primary; something an early adjourning legislature often prevents. There was some evidence -- circumstantial perhaps -- that Georgia was willing to potentially go rogue on the national parties. But Kemp's comments to Galloway provide us with some concrete evidence that selecting a date outside of the parties' designated window for nominating contests is a possibility in the Peach state.

It should also be noted that South Carolina is not likely to willingly surrender its first-in-the-South status, and though the Republican Party in South Carolina won't have state funds for their primary, they will have a primary and not a caucus. A for the possibility of an early, but out of window March primary in Florida, that possibility will depend on what the feelings in the Sunshine state are to the potential moves in Michigan and Arizona. Regardless, I think aligning the Georgia primary with Florida's is an attractive option to Kemp. What remains to be seen is whether Florida's Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee is amendable to the idea. They may be out of luck though. The deadline for the committee in Florida to select a date is October 1. Kemp has until December 1 with the decision in Georgia.

Again, we now have an idea that Georgia is willing to join the early, but rogue group of primary states.

NOTE: Please note that Galloway incorrectly identifies the date of the South Carolina primary as January 28. That is not the date of the primary. The DNC set aside February 28 as the date of the South Carolina Democratic primary, but Republicans in South Carolina don't have to hold a primary on the same date as the Democrats. The RNC rules just specify that a South Carolina primary can take place in February some time, without setting a specific date.

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