Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Long Overdue Update on the Situation in Missouri

With all the talk of Arizona, Florida, Michigan and others threatening the 2012 presidential primary calendar, not to mention the approach of the Ames Straw Poll, there has been little room for any other states to enter the discussion. No, I won't get into nor do I mean the normative argument concerning what the "proper" ordering of states should be on the calendar. FHQ is referring to the remaining states that have to settle the scheduling of their 2012 presidential primaries and caucuses. With that said, there have been a few [slightly dated] things that have happened around that Missouri presidential primary situation that have been pushed further and further back in the queue here at FHQ for various reasons. Nothing is groundbreaking, but together several bits of information help to better define what is happening and might happen with the scheduling of the primary in the Show Me state.

First of all, there was a significant amount of state legislative dissension that emerged following Governor Jay Nixon's (D) veto of the elections bill that would have shifted the presidential primary from February and into compliance with the national parties' rules in March. That isn't new. FHQ covered that early on, and while the displeasure with the veto was mostly Republican -- theirs is the nomination race that matters in 2012 -- there was irritation within the Democratic caucus in the Missouri General Assembly as well.

But the Democrats and Republicans in the Missouri General Assembly are having an apples to oranges debate with the governor. Democrats are concerned over other, non-presidential primary-related provisions in the vetoed elections bill (via Virginia Young at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch):

Democratic Rep. Pat Conway, a former county clerk in St. Joseph, said small towns and villages in rural Missouri have been trying for years to pass a bill that treats them the same as other governmental entities when it comes to elections.

Under current law, school districts, fire districts and ambulance districts, for example, can cancel elections if the number of candidates who file for office is equal to the number of positions to be filled. The candidates are considered elected without an election.

Cities, towns and villages enjoy no such exception. So when the others opt out, municipalities must bear the entire cost of the election.

"Some of these communities in my district are spending 50 percent of their whole budget on elections," Conway said in an interview. He said an election might cost a village $2,000, and "some of them are only taking in $4,000 or $5,000 on their levies."

The bill passed by the Legislature would have put municipalities with a population of less than 35,000 under the same rules as the other local governmental units.

Republicans, however, are upset over the veto of the presidential primary provision, but for the wrong reasons (via Tim Sampson at Missouri News-Horizon):
“Based on what happen to Michigan and Florida during the 2008 primary for the Democratic (nomination), it’s highly likely that national candidates for president would likely boycott the state,” [Missouri Republican Party spokesman, Jonathan] Prouty said.
This is beyond wrong. Missouri Republicans would lose half their delegates to the Tampa convention next year given a non-compliant presidential primary date, but it is extremely unlikely that candidates would boycott the state. The Democrats in 2008 -- and again in 2012 -- have rules in place that penalize candidates for campaigning in defiant states, but the RNC does not have similar rules. While the Democratic candidates steered clear of Florida and Michigan in 2008, the candidates for the Republican nomination did not. In other words, if you hold a primary, the candidates will come.

...unless the candidates are in some way directly dissuaded from paying attention to the state.

In the grand scheme of things, the discussions from both sides of the aisle in Missouri are likely immaterial. At this point the primary date is very likely to be changed from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. The only questions is how?

Sure, Republicans in the state legislature could just sit on the clean presidential primary date change bill Governor Nixon will introduce in the special session next month, keeping the primary in February. But that just isn't likely. Instead we're looking at two paths here:
  1. The Republican-controlled legislature overrides the governor's veto of the elections bill.
  2. The legislature -- without much debate -- passes the governor's clean bill in its special session.
FHQ should note that there is at least some speculation that the special session and veto session will "roughly coincide" with one another. There is, then, at least theoretically, some reason to believe that there could be some discussion as to which path will be followed. To follow path #1 above, the Republican-controlled Missouri House will need -- as it did to pass the redistricted maps earlier this year -- at least four Democrats to go along with a veto override to push one through.1 There is, as was noted above, some Democratic dissatisfaction with the veto of the elections bill in the House. But it remains to be seen if that will amount to much in the veto session next month. Neither Democrats nor Republicans may be ready to open up that can of worms, opting instead to take up the clean bill changing the presidential primary date in the special session and leaving the other provisions for another day.

In fact, that is why the path of least resistance -- path #2 above -- is the most likely outcome next month in Missouri. The date gets changed like most in the Republican majorities in both the state House and Senate want, Missouri Democrats get to hold a compliant 2012 presidential primary, and the other elections provisions will be dealt with in the 2012 legislative session. Yes, the veto override is still on the table, but at this late point in the process of selecting a date for next year's presidential primary, it is likely too complicated to pass muster.

1 The state Senate is tilted enough toward the Republicans that Democratic votes are not necessary in the upper chamber to override the veto of SB 282.


astrojob said...

What's the status of the June primary bill in New Jersey? If Christie never signs it nor vetoes it, does it automatically become law at some point?

Josh Putnam said...

I'll have a detailed answer up later today.