Thursday, June 18, 2015

How is the DNC Involved in the New York Presidential Primary Situation?

Legislation is currently active in New York to bring the presidential primary back into compliance with the national party delegate selection rules. However, the effort to move the election from the first Tuesday in February to April 26 is facing a backlash from a group of 71 Democratic legislators. And the sticking point is not pushing the presidential primary out of February; a position that while non-compliant would keep the Empire state very early on the calendar. Instead, Democratic legislators in New York are upset that the proposed calendar position for the presidential primary election is in the middle of Passover week.

Now, that is a story in and of itself. The state legislature in New York is winding down its work for the session and not resolving the issues surrounding the scheduling of the presidential primary next year would have New York on the wrong side of national party rules (with a February primary). Any delay -- any impasse -- means that a date change is in some jeopardy. Things get prioritized differently when that legislative countdown clock is ticking toward zero hour.

But what is odd is to whom Democratic lawmakers in New York have chosen to air their grievances. The letter the group of 71 sent was sent to the Democratic National Committee.


To FHQ that is the real story in all of this. Why would legislators choose to reach out to the DNC? There are national party rules prohibiting February presidential primaries and significant penalties that come along with that. Beyond that, however, there is nothing in the Democratic delegate selection rules for 2016 that explicitly schedule the New York presidential primary for April 26. There may be some pressure from the DNC to do that, but there is absolutely nothing preventing New York legislators of any partisan stripe from agreeing on a primary date anywhere on the calendar between March 1 and sometime in early to mid-June.


That is a lot of dates from which to choose. And as FHQ has mentioned there is incentive for New York Democrats to want that April 26 date, Passover conflict aside. It means bonus delegates tacked onto the New York delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next July; extra delegates for a later primary scheduled concurrently with similar contests in potentially five other states. Yet, if New York Democrats want to take advantage of those bonuses, they would have to be on April 26.

There may also be pressure that is being exerted on the New York Democratic Party and/or legislators   by the DNC to keep a partially Democratic-controlled state (or group of states) later on the calendar. These sorts of rumors emerged in 2011; that Democrats were attempting to schedule contests in states the party controlled later in the process as a means of influencing the Republican nomination. The hope then as presumably now would be to produce a more conservative nominee chosen by a frontloaded group of more conservative states.

Again, however, that is potential pressure folks in New York are getting from the DNC. That is a lot different than rules violations that give the national party some reason to penalize a state. There is something missing in the reporting on this story. It does not make any sense that New York Democrats would point the finger at the national party. The way this process -- the scheduling of presidential nominating contests -- works should mean that those legislators should be pointing their fingers at each other.

Thanks to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News for sharing news of the Passover conflict with FHQ.

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