Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Signs Delaware Presidential Primary is Staying Put

Back in January, FHQ, discussing prospective primary movement during the 2019 state legislative sessions convening across the country, highlighted the group of mid-Atlantic/northeastern states that have seeming settled in late April since the 2012 cycle. Under Democratic control, states like Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Rhode Island not only moved away from February presidential primary dates leftover from the 2008 cycle, but moved deeper into the calendar for the 2012 cycle and have stayed there.

That made more sense in 2012 when Barack Obama was seeking renomination on the Democratic side -- the stakes were lower and the costs of a later primary less -- but that group of Acela corridor states maintained their April positions despite an open nomination in 2016. Now, it could be argued that during the time that primary date changes were being considered by state legislatures in 2015, Hillary Clinton was a prohibitive favorite to win the 2016 nomination. States with Democrats in control of state government, in turn, may have been less likely to make any changes to the presidential primary date.

But the outlook for the 2020 nomination is and has been a wide open race. Yet, in none of those states, save New York (which operates under a unique set of circumstances), have made any moves toward a presidential primary change. All has been quiet. And that silence typically will signal no primary movement.

However, there has been an additional signal out of Delaware. No, there is no proposed presidential primary date change, but for the second consecutive state legislative session in the First state, there is an effort underway to attempt to align the September primaries for state and local offices with the presidential primary in April. HB 89 passed the state House in Delaware in 2017, but died in the state Senate. And now in 2019, HB 41, a nearly identical proposal, has so far followed a similar trajectory. The plan to consolidate state primaries with the April presidential primary flew through the state House in January, but has again hit the wall in the state Senate.

The legislative session adjourns in June and the bill still has time to work its way through the state Senate, but the proposed move is less important for the move than it is for the anchor point on the calendar.1 Linking those primaries for state and local offices to the presidential primary in Delaware is the clearest active effort among those April Acela primary state signaling a non-movement. The others have been more passive at this point.

As of now, Delaware is scheduled to have an April 28 presidential primary on the latter half of the 2020 presidential primary calendar.

1 Delaware was a late mover in 2011, the last time the state shifted its presidential primary date. That legislation was passed toward the end of the legislative session that cycle.

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