Wednesday, April 20, 2011

An April Primary in Georgia?

Ink in the form of Governor Nathan Deal's name has yet to hit paper much less dry on the recently passed legislation to hand the date-setting authority for the Peach state's presidential primary to Secretary of State Brian Kemp. But that has not stopped some -- FHQ included -- from speculating on where the Georgia primary will end up on the 2012 presidential primary calendar. That list now includes the current GOP state party chair, Sue Everhart conceding (via the AJC Political Insider blog) "that Georgia is likely to seek an April date."

Conceding? Why?

Well, let's look at the factors involved in the decision-making calculus in the Peach state. First of all, Georgia Democrats will take a back seat in the process. No, the national party likely won't have a competitive nomination race at the presidential level, and that doesn't help. But neither does the fact that the party is in the minority in the state after being swept in every statewide race last year and kept in the minority in the state legislature. Really, so long as Kemp does not select -- assuming the bill is signed into law -- a date prior to the first Tuesday in March, he is not likely to hear even a peep out of Georgia Democrats.

Technically, though, Kemp, a Republican, has the ability to select any date between the last Tuesday in January (the first available Tuesday 60 days following the final date on which the secretary would be able to choose a date, December 1) and the second Tuesday in June. Again, as FHQ pointed out back when the legislation was first proposed, the opening point of that window of time coincides with the date on which the primary in Florida is currently scheduled. If Florida, whether through its state legislature or the proposed bipartisan committee, continues to defy national party rules and maintains that January date, it may become a more attractive location for the Georgia primary in the eyes of Republicans in the state.

It would be attractive save for two reasons. The Georgia delegation to the Republican National Convention in Tampa would be halved and the delegates from that primary would have to be allocated proportionally. Neither of those options is seemingly palatable to the state party's chair nor presumably to others within the party. Traditionally, Georgia has had a winner-take-all allocation of delegates and would go to the convention with a diluted voice of sorts. In practice all the delegates from the Georgia delegation would line up behind the presumptive GOP nominee, but they wouldn't all be Romney men or Palin loyalists or Pawlenty people. In the big picture it isn't a big deal, but to state party folks who have worked hard for a candidate it does.

And yeah, they do hold some sway in the state party; a party that will elect a chair next month at the state convention. That's why one of those candidates, the current chair, Sue Everhart, is conceding that there may be an April primary in Georgia. Of course, she and the party would have to convince Brian Kemp of that first.

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