Saturday, March 4, 2023

Kansas Bill Would Reestablish Presidential Primary in the Sunflower State

New legislation introduced this past week in Kansas would reestablish a presidential primary, schedule it for May and consolidate that election with the primaries for other offices.

At the behest of Senator Caryn Tyson (R-12th, Anderson), the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs introduced SB 290. The measure would move all Kansas primaries from the first Tuesday following the first Monday in August to the first Tuesday following the first Monday in May. Additionally, the legislation would reestablish a presidential primary in the Sunflower state and consolidate the election with the rest of the primaries on that early May date. 

Kansas has an interesting history with the presidential primary. Actually, Kansas has very little history with a presidential primary as the means of allocating delegates to the national conventions. Only twice in the post-reform era has the state officially held a primary: in 1980 and again in 1992. And from 1996 until 2012, the dance that the Kansas legislature would perform would be to not appropriate funds for a presidential primary election and change the date in the statute referencing the election to the next cycle. That routine ended for the 2016 cycle when the presidential primary was struck from the Kansas statutes altogether, eliminating the contest and the need to (not) fund it. 

By consolidating the presidential primary with the others in May, this legislation circumvents the funding issues that plagued past attempts to conduct the presidential primary called for in Kansas code prior to 2015. However, that would have the effect of lengthening the general election campaigns for nominees seeking other offices in the Sunflower state. And the proposed early May date would overlap with the end of the legislative session in Kansas as well. Legislators in some other consolidated primary states have balked at having to fundraise for renomination in the midst of a legislative session because of the potential conflicts of interest it creates. Those sorts of complaints may or may not surface in the discussion around SB 290. So, too, may the fact that the state parties may still opt out of a primary election for allocating national convention delegates in favor of caucuses.

The first Tuesday following the first Monday in May is on May 7 in 2024, currently the same date as the Indiana primary. It also happens to be the point on the calendar when the Republican presidential primary process effectively ended in 2016. 

This legislation has been added to FHQ's updated 2024 presidential primary calendar

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

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