Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Follow Up on the April Presidential Primary in Texas: Signals from the Republican Party of Texas

Though news of the Texas House Defense and Veterans' Affairs Committee having unanimously passed SB 100 has been out for over a week, little in the way of confirmation that that committee version included a provision for an April presidential primary has emerged. Yes, some news outlets reported it, yet there was no new version -- one that includes the April primary amendment -- posted on the Texas legislature website. Unfortunately, that is still the case, but now there is a slightly more official source confirming the April primary provision in the bill. The Republican Party of Texas has confirmed it by communicating the change to its members. From the RPT press release:
As has been mentioned in the last two Chairman's Updates for March and April, the RPT has been closely following the progress of SB 100, specifically as it applies to the date of the Texas Primary Election. To give some background - the federal MOVE Act has been crafted to give our overseas military a greater amount of time to receive and cast their vote by mail. For our state to comply with the MOVE Act, there are changes mandated to the election calendar that lengthen the period of time between filing for office and election day. In the case of Texas, our best solution is to move the primary date back into April with a runoff date in June. In addition to changes mandated by the MOVE Act, the Republican National Committee has passed rules which penalize states which hold their primary elections before April and do not apportion their delegates in direct proportion to the popular vote. Texas is such a state. Thus, should Texas keep its primary date on the first Tuesday in March, those rules would potentially take away half of the Texas delegation strength to the Republican National Convention in 2012.
As FHQ has previously noted, the RPT is very wary of the penalties associated with the mandates in both the MOVE act and the RNC delegate selection rules. The party cannot change its winner-take-all method of delegate allocation outside of a state convention and the party values following the rules over taking the sanctions in order to preserve an earlier and more influential primary date.

Texas is the rare exception in this Republican-only nomination cycle of a Republican-controlled state moving back beyond March 6. A real dichotomy has emerged between Republican and Democratic-controlled states in terms of their primary movement. Forced to change primary dates in order to comply with the timing aspect of the national parties' delegate selection rules, Democratic-controlled states -- with nothing on the line -- have opted to shift back to April or later dates in order to maximize their presence at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte (see Maryland, DC, and the Democratic caucus states). Republican-controlled states, on the other hand, have chosen to move back, but to move back only as far as the earliest date that the parties will allow (see Oklahoma, Tennessee). States where the Republicans control some part of the state government, and thus have some form of veto power have also prevented moves back beyond March 6 (see Virginia and most likely Missouri and Alabama). New Jersey and Texas are the exceptions thus far. Texas, owing to the rules, has to move back or change other, more complicated matters like the resign-to-run rule as well as the filing deadlines attendant to that (Georgia may fit that category as well.). New Jersey, meanwhile, looks destined to move simply because Governor Christie (R) is seemingly in agreement with the Democratic-controlled legislature on consolidating the presidential primary with the primaries for state and local offices in June.

As state legislatures finish up their business for 2011 over the next few months, that will be the pattern to watch. There is an additional group to add to the mix as well: rogue states. Florida, Michigan and Arizona are increasingly likely to defy the RNC rules in timing their delegate selection events. And no, this group does not include states like New York, Delaware and Wisconsin, which have done nothing as of yet to change the dates of their respective delegate selection events.

A hat tip to Tony Roza at The Green Papers for passing the news of the RPT's press release on to FHQ.

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