Saturday, March 12, 2011

Louisiana Republican State Central Committee Passes Resolution on March Presidential Primary

Apropos to our post earlier this morning on Louisiana, the Pelican state's Republican State Central Committee today met and passed a resolution calling on the state legislature to shift the presidential primary there from the second (or third) Saturday in February to the first Saturday after the first Tuesday in March. Now, FHQ had mentioned that there had been some discussion about that particular point or even moving the primary back to April, but it appears as if the former won out.

That isn't all that noteworthy, but some of the comments coming out of the meeting from various members of the committee were enlightening. Ed Anderson at the New Orleans Times-Picayune highlighted the fact that some on the committee had raised the issue of the budgetary constraints that have affected other states' plans -- or planning more appropriately -- for primaries next year:

Michael Chittom, a committee member from Baton Rouge, asked whether the Legislature would be in the mood to finance a presidential primary on any date next year in light of the state's money shortage.

"$6 million is a lot of money in today's budget crisis," Villere said. If canceling the primary is what "we need to do to help with the budget," he said, "I wouldn't see us fighting it. We all have to sacrifice."

Villere said that if the primary is canceled by the Legislature as a cost-saving move, the GOP could hold caucuses, stage its own elections or hold a state convention to pick delegates to the national meeting next year.

So, the tab on the presidential primary in the state comes to approximately $6 million and the Louisiana Republican Party would not be all that averse to shifting to a caucus or convention set up if the state legislature deemed the presidential primary too costly and cut it. That is fairly significant and contrasts with how I described the likelihood of Utah Republicans adopting a later caucus system in the face of a non-compliant -- and less delegate-rich -- primary in February. Why is it that Utah would eschew that option and Louisiana Republicans would seemingly nonchalantly accept it?

Louisiana, like any other state, is unique in how it allocates national convention delegates. On top of that there are differences in how the two parties in the Pelican state accomplish that task. Democrats have typically used the state-funded primary, while Republicans have used, depending on the year, a combination primary-caucus. In 1996, for example, Louisiana Republicans held an early February caucus to allocate some delegates and that preceded the usual second Tuesday in March primary. But in other years, the delegate allocation balance between the two has varied. The point is that Louisiana Republicans have an attendant caucus process alongside the primary.

The issue with Utah Republicans was or would be that they would have to fund a caucus if they were somehow forced to abandon the state-funded primary as a means of allocating their delegates. That isn't the case in Louisiana. Republicans in the state already have the caucus option covered and can fall back on that were the presidential primary to be defunded by the state legislature. Of course whether that is actually a proposal that is on the table is unknown. But what is known is that this is why the Republicans from the meeting today mentioned the Democratic Party in the state. The burden would be higher for Democrats -- sans primary -- than it would be for Republicans, and the state party and the Democratic-controlled Senate may be less willing to go along with such a plan.

The March primary resolution from state Republicans, the possibility of the state legislature eliminating the primary altogether and potential Democratic opposition to the idea are all matters to keep close watch on when the Louisiana legislature convenes next month.

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