Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Progress Report: A view of an early Georgia Democratic Presidential Primary, post-deadline day

Last week's DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee-imposed deadline for states granted contingent waivers for early contests to update their progress came and went on January 5 with little new light shed on the subject. 

Yes, South Carolina, Nevada and Michigan gave favorable reports and received positive marks from the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (DNCRBC). And all of that was expected because of either how dates are chosen (South Carolina), being on the prescribed date already (Nevada) or the midterms shifting state legislative control in the direction of Democrats (Michigan). None of that was new or unexpected. 

Neither was it unexpected that New Hampshire, Iowa and Georgia may present some problems for the recently adopted calendar proposal put forth by President Biden and his team. It came as little surprise, then, that the DNCRBC co-chairs granted both New Hampshire and Georgia some extra time beyond January 5 to work toward the plan outlined in the proposed pre-window calendar in the Democratic presidential nomination process for 2024. 

And that is less a story of backlash than it is about the political realities of changing the lineup at the beginning of the calendar. Again, if it was so easy to change, then it would have changed by now

Look, the calendar proposal, as is, was unworkable from the start. New Hampshire Democrats were most assuredly going to balk at losing their position atop the primary calendar, and their defiant reaction is mostly just par for the course. Plus, given the hoops that Granite state Democrats were given to jump through to retain their waiver, the very clear signal was that 1) the DNCRBC never really thought New Hampshire Democrats were going to play along and/or 2) the panel was going to have this standoff with them anyway and boot the state from the pre-window altogether. 

[But FHQ digresses. We will return to the Granite state in a separate post.]

Georgia is much the same. As in New Hampshire, Republicans control the levers of power with respect to the selection of a date for the presidential primary. Thus far, the secretary of state's office in Georgia has resisted entreaties about shifting up the date of presidential primary in the Peach state:
"We’ve been clear: This needs to be equitable so that no one loses a single delegate and needs to take place on the same day to save taxpayer funds."
-- Jordan Fuchs, Georgia Deputy Secretary of State
And representatives in Secretary Raffensperger's (R) office have not been doing this just recently. Democrats, in the state of Georgia and nationally, have been repeatedly rebuffed throughout the course of Georgia Democrats' efforts to appeal to the DNCRBC to add the Peach state to the pre-window lineup. 
"Sterling said the agency 'has been telling Democrats for over a year that we will do nothing that would require having two dates' for the parties’ primaries. He said that because of the national GOP’s calendar, holding Georgia’s Republican primary before March 1 'would cut their delegate count in half.'”
-- Gabriel Sterling, COO  Georgia Secretary of State
[Actually, a primary before March 1 would cost Georgia Republicans around 85 percent of their delegates.]

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) also opposes the move. A spokesman said, "the governor has no role in this process and does not support the idea." Well, under Georgia law, the governor issues a proclamation about the presidential primary, but that follows the secretary of state scheduling the contest. Informally, the governor could lobby on behalf of such a move. ...if he was so inclined. 

And in this case, Kemp is not. 

That is a fair amount of resistance to the calendar proposal adopted by the DNCRBC in December to shift the Georgia primary to February 13. But that just makes February 13 unworkable.  

In looking at the above comments from folks in the Georgia secretary of state's office, there is a path for Georgia to be added to the pre-window that satisfies the two main criteria: 1) the state holds just one primary for both parties and 2) neither party loses delegates (for going too early). Just because February 13 is unworkable for Georgia does not mean that the DNCRBC does not have a set of workable component parts, New Hampshire aside, to assemble an alternate pre-window calendar. 

Nevada is likely locked into the February 6 position called for in state law. But everything else is maneuverable. 

If the space between South Carolina and Nevada(/New Hampshire) is deemed to be too small and the three state cluster in the calendar's first four days too heavy a lift in the eyes of the DNCRBC, then South Carolina could be shifted up slightly (if the panel and the president remain wedded to the idea of the Palmetto state primary leading off the proceedings).

Michigan is also maneuverable. Yes, Democrats in power in the state recently submitted their letters to the DNCRBC pledging to make the necessary changes to state law to add the Great Lakes state to the early window. But those Democrats are also in "you say jump and we'll ask how high" mode. In other words, they are happy to be a part of the conversation and could just as easily shift up to an earlier date if necessary to better space out currently listed contests across February 2024.

There is no reason the DNCRBC cannot work with the component parts already described in the proposal. To that end, just swap Georgia and Michigan in the order. Move Michigan up a week or two and slot Georgia into a spot on Saturday, March 2. Democrats in Michigan can make that sort of change just as easily as they can moving to February 27, and Georgia can be the lead-in contest to Super Tuesday on March 2 without costing Peach state taxpayers any additional money for a second presidential primary election or the Georgia Republican Party any delegates to the national convention. 

The beginnings of the Democratic and Republican calendars are unaligned in the rules and a contest can slip into a slot ahead of the first Tuesday in March (Democratic) but after March 1 (Republican) in 2024. Again, February 13 is unworkable for a Georgia Democratic presidential primary, but there are tweaks the DNCRBC can make to create a doable pre-window slate of contests that also satisfies the basic premise of the Biden proposal.

They will still have the New Hampshire problem, but the DNCRBC was always going to have to have that fight if they and the president are serious about dislodging the Granite state from the first primary position in the Democratic order. But as I say, that is a story for a separate post. 

Everything else? That is fixable. 

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