Monday, January 23, 2023

Hawaii Senate Bill Proposes Super Tuesday Presidential Primary

The Hawaii state legislature gaveled in just last week, but already there is movement on establishing a presidential primary in the lone state with unified Democratic control without one. 

The political parties of the Aloha state have traditionally utilized a caucus/convention system for allocating and selecting delegates to the national conventions. But that began to change in 2020 when Hawaii Democrats shifted to a party-run primary and things look to incrementally progress even further during the 2024 cycle. Last week, new legislation was introduced in the Hawaii state House to establish a presidential primary in May and conduct a feasibility study to best optimize such a shift (presumably in subsequent cycles). 

Now, senators in the upper chamber are presenting their own presidential primary proposal. A trio of Democrats, Senator Karl Rhoads (D-13th, Dowsett Highlands), Senator Stanley Chang (D-9th, Hawai'i Kai) and Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran (D-5th, Wailuku), have filed SB 1005. It scraps the feasibility study of the House bill and creates a presidential primary scheduled for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. In most cycles, that would fall on Super Tuesday. It would also potentially stand a better chance of luring Hawaii Republicans into using the primary (not to mention supporting the bill). On Super Tuesday, the proposed state-run presidential primary would better align with where Republicans in the Aloha state have recently held the initial precinct caucuses, the second Tuesday in March. 

Hawaii is small enough, Democratic enough and far enough away from the mainland that it will be difficult to garner much attention from presidential candidates anyway. But even lost in a sea of more delegate-rich contests on Super Tuesday, a primary there would at least insure that Hawaiians from both major parties have the opportunity to weigh in with their presidential preferences before the race is (likely to be) effectively over in a May position. Depending on how these two bills progress, however, these are the sorts of ideas that the Hawaii legislature will consider when scrutinizing these two bills. 

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