Sunday, February 8, 2015

New Mexico Attempt to Move Presidential Primary to March is In

Last week -- Thursday, February 5 -- legislation was introduced in the New Mexico state House to shift the date of the presidential primary in the Land of Enchantment ahead of the 2016 elections.

House Majority Leader, Representative Nate Gentry (R-30th, Bernalillo) filed HB 346 which would shift the date of the presidential primary in New Mexico from the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June to the third Tuesday in March. That would fall on March 15 in 2016; the first date on which states can hold winner-take-all contests under the Republican rules. It is also a date currently occupied by Illinois and Missouri.

The motivations behind the bill seems at least somewhat clear here. First, the legislation would move New Mexico up from the tail end of the calendar into a hypothetically more influential spot in March.  Second, as a means of maximizing that potential influence, there is some attempt at creating a regional -- in this case, western -- cluster of nomination contests.

Unlike other western neighbors like Arizona and Utah (or even Idaho), New Mexico does not have unified Republican control of the state government. That the Land of Enchantment does not have Republican-controlled government is probably less meaningful than it not having unified government (regardless of its partisan tilt). In any event, New Mexico Democrats maintained control of the upper chamber after the 2014 midterm elections, while the Republican Party in the state picked up the lower chamber. Governor Susana Martinez (R) was also easily reelected in 2014. In other words, Democrats in the New Mexico state Senate have a veto point that minority party Democrats do not have in some of New Mexico's nearest neighbors.

Does that mean that the plan to move the New Mexico primary up is sunk?

No, Democrats may very well go along with the legislation that has been brought forth. Unlike Idaho, where the government would have to entice both parties back into a primary system (as opposed to the caucuses both used in 2012) and require $2 million to fund a new and separate presidential primary election, the legislation introduced by Rep. Gentry would shift the consolidated primary (including the presidential primary and the primaries for state and local offices) up from June to March. Both New Mexico parties utilized the June primary for delegate allocation in 2012. And though there are still costs associated with getting the word out on a primary date change of this nature, it is far less than creating and conducting a separate election. That -- the costs -- is one less thing New Mexico Democrats in the legislature could balk at while this bill is being considered.

UPDATE (2/23/15): Bill stalls in committee

Recent Posts:
Connecticut Republicans Strategize About Opening Primaries, Moving Presidential Primary Up

Idaho Bill Reestablishing Presidential Primary Introduced

Uncertainty surrounds NC primary

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