Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Companion House Bill Would Create February West Virginia Presidential Primary

Outside of New Hampshire and maybe Iowa, the most provocative action to affect the 2024 presidential primary calendar in 2023 is probably the state Senate bill out of West Virginia to create a stand-alone presidential primary in the Mountain state and schedule it for the second Tuesday in February

Now, after a month of inactivity on that particular legislation, it has a companion in the state House. Earlier this week, Delegate Jarred Cannon (R-21st, Putnam) introduced HB 3406, a carbon copy of its Senate companion. Both would entail a move of a proposed newly created and separate West Virginia presidential primary into February and out of compliance with national party rules on timing. And that would come with attendant penalties. 

Due to its size, West Virginia is in a kind of sweet spot with respect to those sanctions. Delegations there would not get knocked that much compared to much larger states. There just are not that many delegates to take away. But rather than treat this as damn if you do, damned if you don't situation for the presidential primary, there may be a marginally more subtle move that would initially draw the ire of only national Democrats. Rather than chase penalties, Republican sponsors of the legislation could maximize the state's voice in the Republican presidential nomination process with a date before Super Tuesday (March 5) but on or after Friday, March 1. That is a window that is earlier than all but the four protected early states and would carve out a position by itself (for now) for the West Virginia primary. It would not lose the state any Republican delegates to the national convention but would put Mountain state Democrats in much the same position Michigan Republicans currently find themselves

Of course, if a Republican state legislature and a Republican governor followed through on such a plan, state Democrats powerless to block the move would be able to petition the national party for a waiver to avoid penalty (so long as legislative Democrats oppose the measure) and be reasonably assured of success.

But a second Tuesday in February primary would only grab the attention of both national parties and trigger more significant penalties on state Republicans.

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