On Friday, May 13, Governor Nathan Deal (R) signed HB 454 into law. The bill transfers the authority for setting the date of the Georgia presidential primary from the General Assembly to the secretary of state. The Peach state's current secretary of state, Brian Kemp, will have until December 1 (at the latest) to choose the date on which Georgia will hold its presidential primary. Though that December deadline and the 60 days required to be within the point of selecting a date and holding the contest would allow for a primary as early as the last Tuesday in January, early signals out of the Republican Party of Georgia indicate a likely April primary. That, however, may depend on the chair Georgia Republicans select this weekend at their annual state convention.
Part of the reason for the higher likelihood of an April primary hinges on Georgia Republicans traditionally holding winner-take-all primaries; something the new Republican delegate selection rules do not allow before April. Presumably, the state party would have a chance to alter the winner-take-all rules to avoid that problem (...if an earlier primary without penalties is desired).1 It is not clear whether Kemp, a Republican, would follow the suggestions of the state party, but it is likely given the fact that the primary is a means of the party allocating its delegates to the national convention.
One final note should probably be made as the path of this legislation has reached its completion. By ceding the power to the secretary of state, the Georgia General Assembly has granted the state more flexibility -- on par with New Hampshire and similar though not exactly like what is happening in Florida -- to select a presidential primary date that will put the state in a position on the calendar to influence the nomination. The short legislative session that Georgia typically holds so early in the year has continually hampered the states ability to be as free as some other states in selecting a time for a primary.
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This move on Georgia's part moves the Peach state out of February and now has Georgia designated as "No Date" for our purposes here at FHQ until Secretary Kemp selects a date for the presidential primary.
Follow this link for a look back at the legislative process behind this bill and other presidential primary news in Georgia.
1 Texas has had the same problem but has no recourse between now and next year's primary due to the fact that the Republican Party of Texas has already held its 2011 state convention and has no means of changing its winner-take-all requirement.