Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Three New Presidential Primary Bills Emerge in Tennessee

Late last week, bills were introduced by the Republican leadership in both chambers of the Tennessee General Assembly to move the Volunteer state's 2012 presidential primary from the first Tuesday in February to the first Tuesday in March. Since that time, there have been three additional bills introduced that would affect the timing of the state's presidential primary. Two are revisions of the bills filed last week -- yet in the form of an all-new bill -- that would maintain the same shift described in the previous legislation, but would augment that with a change in the filing deadlines as well. As such, HB 793 and SB 929, also sponsored by Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-26, Chattanooga) and Sen. Mark Norris (R-32, Collierville) respectively, seemingly replace HB 612 and SB 599. Again, these bills, as was the case with their predecessors have the backing of the Republican (majority party) leadership and that stands to help the bill through the General Assembly.

In contrast, HB 760, introduced by Democratic House leader, Craig Fitzhugh (D-82, Ripley), while it does have the support of the minority party leader, will potentially face more institutional, not to mention partisan, barriers to passing. Complicating matters further -- from a partisan perspective -- is the fact that this bill calls for the presidential primary to be moved to first Tuesday in May to coincide with the municipal primaries in the state. This not only saves money, but it also moves the primary out of the window of time in which the Republican nomination is likely to be decided. The cost savings are attractive, but it is questionable how open Republican legislators are going to be toward moving the primary out of contention on the calendar. Democrats obviously have a bit more leeway on this front given that the party is very unlikely to have a contested nomination race next year.

These bills will be added to the Presidential Primary Bills Before State Legislatures section in the left sidebar.

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