[This is part two in a continuing series this week examining current state legislative action affecting the positioning of presidential primaries in 2012.]
Earlier this year, in a similar series of posts, FHQ looked into the possibility of New Jersey shifting its 2012 presidential primary (currently set to take place on February 7, 2012) because of a provision in a recently passed bill allowing the lieutenant governor the power to move elections if they conflict with religious holidays. Now, that discussion centered on Republicans taking over the executive branch after the elections this fall in the Garden state and then, somewhat frivolously, using the power in the above law to move New Jersey into an advantageous position on the 2012 calendar. If Republicans were able to take over the executive branch [That just means winning the governor's race since the governor would, then, appoint a lieutenant governor], they could be motivated to put the Garden state in a position to have a real influence on the GOP nomination race.
But, again, that scenario is something of a stretch. It certainly depends on several things falling into place first. Granted, Jon Corzine is doing his best to help the GOP cause in the gubernatorial race, but we'll have to see how things go on that front.
No, there is actually legislation -- carried over from the 2008 legislative session -- that addresses the date of the state's presidential primary. New Jersey, though, isn't following North Carolina or Oregon's lead. [The state government would challenge the national party rules to frontload further as the state is already on the earliest allowable date. Moving foward further, then, would mean violating those rules, at least as they existed for the 2008 cycle. Those rules could change.] The bill (A 2413) seeks to, as was the case in Arkansas, eliminate the separate presidential primary and move it back in line with the primaries in the state for statewide and local offices. In other words, the presidential primary would move back to the end of the presidential primary queue and be held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in June (June 5, 2012).
Interestingly, this legislation is being pushed by a Republican state representative. And I would assume that the move is not one proposed as a means of depriving New Jersey an impact on the GOP nomination, but more so as a way of saving money for the state. And this was the case in Arkansas as well. The issue here is that states which have recently (read: in 2008) separated their presidential primaries and primaries for state and local offices are faced with more of a quandary than states that have split primaries, but have institutionalized the separate presidential primary over a series of presidential election cycles. For example, many of the states in the northeast have August or September primaries for state and local offices which basically forces a separate presidential primary (so that it complies with the national party rules concerning the scheduling of presidential delegate selection events). With a June primary in place, New Jersey is not in that position.
The other obvious question here concerns the likelihood of this bill passing. Again, this bill is sponsored by a Republican in a chamber (and overall legislative body) controlled by Democrats. That doesn't mean the bill can't gain Democratic support, but the fact that it has been stuck in committee since basically this time last year (It was referred to the State Government Committee on March 3, 2008.), doesn't bode well for its chances of passage.
Still, the bill is worth tracking and is probably a much more plausible avenue for a primary date change than the alternative mentioned previously.
Up Next: New Hampshire
On the Move Again? 2012 Arkansas Primary
Oregon in 2012
I'll Admit It. CQ's Got Me on This One.