Friday, January 18, 2013

Arizona Bill Introduced to Place Presidential Primary on the Same Date as Iowa Caucuses

State legislatures are only just beginning to convene their new sessions following the 2012 elections, but already 2016 is on the minds of legislators. In Arizona, that means a review of (and proposal regarding) the date of the Grand Canyon state's presidential primary. First term Representative Phil Lovas (R-22nd -- Peoria, Glendale) prefiled on January 2 a bill (HB 2017) in the Arizona House which would move the state's presidential primary from the fourth Tuesday in February to the coincide with the Iowa caucuses (once a date is settled on in the Hawkeye state).

This is notable for a number of reasons.

First of all, the Arizona primary as is currently scheduled (the fourth Tuesday) is already in violation of both the Republican and Democratic Party rules that governed the 2012 presidential delegate selection process. There is no indication -- either in the rules passed by the RNC at the 2012 convention in Tampa or within the DNC from what FHQ can gather -- that late February is going to be open season for states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Secondly, Arizona has been something of a problem child -- along with most notably Florida and Michigan -- in this date selection process for much of the post-reform era. In the 1988 cycle, for instance, Arizona Republicans began their delegate selection process with precinct caucuses in 1986. By the time of the 2012 cycle, Arizona had not only adopted a presidential primary as a means of allocating presidential nomination delegates -- abandoning the caucuses on the Republican side in 1996 -- but had added an institutional layer to the date-setting process that made the state better able to adapt to the moves of other states.

Leading up to the 2004 process, the state legislature introduced and passed a bill that set the date of the Arizona primary for the fourth Tuesday in February but also granted the governor the power to shift the date of the contest up (and only up) to a more advantageous position on the primary calendar. That gubernatorial proclamation power was noncontroversial when it was used in both 2004 and 2008, but became more of a weapon in 2012. In the former two cases, then-Governor Janet Napolitano (D) moved the primary up to the earliest date allowed by the two major parties. At that point, that was the first Tuesday in February. In the waning days of 2011, however, Governor Jan Brewer (R) used the power the legislature had ceded the governor in the 1990s to threaten to move the primary into January 2012 (a violation of party rules) as a way of ultimately extracting from the RNC a Republican presidential debate in Arizona before the state's primary.

The uncertainty of the date of the Arizona primary had the side effect of introducing even more chaos to an already chaotic evolution of the 2012 presidential primary calendar. The only catch to the governor's power was that a decision on wielding it had to be done at least 180 days in advance of when the primary was to take place. For a January date, then, action had to be taken by the governor in early September.

Rep. Lovas's legislation addresses not only the date, but the width of the window of time required for a primary date to be selected. As FHQ stated above, the bill would move the Arizona primary to a point that coincides with the Iowa caucuses. However, it also reduces by half the amount of time (90 days) between the governor's decision and when the primary will be held.

Astute readers will point out that the Iowa political parties may make a decision on a caucus date at a time that precludes Arizona from moving to the same date while adhering to the 90 day buffer the Grand Canyon state would provide elections officials to prepare for the administration of the primary election. In such an event, HB 2017 would allow the governor the ability to set the date as early as the next Tuesday following the passage of 90 days. In other words, the Arizona primary may not be on the same date as Iowa, but would be pretty close.

...close enough to mess with the date on which New Hampshire might like to hold its primary.

--
A few other notes on this bill:
1) As of now, there are no co-sponsors on HB 2017. There is, then, no way of know now how much support there is for a move that would likely violate both national parties' sets of delegate selection rules.
2) Though it happens occasionally, it is still pretty rare for a state to move its primary or pass legislation providing for the movement of said primary in the year after a presidential election. Instead, most of the successful legislative action takes place in the year before a presidential election.

That said, this is an aggressive move this early in the 2016 cycle. The Republican Party is pretty set on its rules for 2016, but the Democrats have yet to begin their process.



Are you following FHQ on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook? Click on the links to join in.

2 comments:

MysteryPolitico said...

You write "First of all, the Arizona primary as is currently scheduled (the fourth Tuesday) is already in violation of both the Republican and Democratic Party rules that governed the 2012 presidential delegate selection process. There is no indication -- either in the rules passed by the RNC at the 2012 convention in Tampa or within the DNC from what FHQ can gather -- that late February is going to be open season for states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina."

Can I put one asterisk on this?

The reporting from last year's RNC (e.g., http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/22/republicans-approve-super-penalty-measure-to-rescue-primary-calendar/ ) suggested that the "super penalty" only applied to states that held contests more than a week before the normal primary window. Arizona, holding its primary exactly one week before the window, would still lose half its delegates, but not get hit with the super penalty.

Is there really any doubt that, should that rule hold, at least one or two states (provisionally Arizona and Michigan, but maybe Florida and others as well) will be willing to hold primaries in that last week of February and take the 50% delegate penalty? I mean, what was the point of cutting that deal for the extra week in the first place if there wasn't a strong contingent from AZ and MI who think that the 50% penalty is worth it, and will still be worth it in 2016?

Josh Putnam said...

A couple of things in response to a very good point, MysteryPolitico:
1) The intended emphasis there was on "open season". Given the rules that are in place now within both parties (incomplete rules, mind you -- Rules that are potentially subject to change.), the Democrats would not allow that (week long in 2016 but not in all subsequent years) Republican buffer between the final Tuesday in February and March 1. That inter-party rules discrepancy might not keep Arizona, Florida and Michigan out of that area of the calendar but might (and if past precedent is any indication probably would) be effective in warding off most other would-be violator states. State-level party control, then, matters.

2) Now, of course, you already kind of countered "only the carve-outs in late February" part with the CNN item. That 50% penalty buffer area that Peter Hamby mentions may be the the RNC intention, but that is not what the Tampa rules will net the party. I didn't really want to open up that can of worms in this post (though relevant) because that would have complicated the explanation. I plan at least one post on this before I meet with some RNC folks to discuss their rules this coming week during their winter meeting in Charlotte.