Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Colorado Presidential Primary Bill Dies in Committee

So long, Colorado presidential primary. We hardly knew ye.

The Colorado legislature is wrapping up the business of its 2015 regular session. One of the items that has popped up in these waning days has been an effort to reestablish a presidential primary in the Centennial state for the first time since 2000. The high hopes that some had for SB 15-287 crested late last week as the Senate Committee on State, Veterans and Military Affairs gave the legislation the green light, passing the measure by a 4-1 vote.

But that committee passed the baton on to a Senate Appropriations Committee that did not look favorably on the move to trade out the caucuses/convention process for a presidential primary (especially one that allowed unaffiliated voters to participate). Republicans in control of the state Senate (and thus the Appropriations Committee) killed the bill on Monday, May 4, postponing it indefinitely. Attempts to send the bill to the Committee of the Whole (the Senate floor) failed on a narrow 4-3 vote.

John Frank at the Denver Post points out that part of the reasoning behind the move was financial. The primary would have cost the state $1.7 million with additional resources coming from the county and local level. But mainly, the death of the bill is a function of two related factors. First, it is difficult to change the status quo -- in this case a caucuses/convention system -- when there is staunch support with a party for it. Second, this is the battlefield on which Republicans on the state level(s) and nationally have internally fought on over the last several years.

It is not an uncommon battle. On one side, there are interests in the party that want to win elections. Those were the folks who supported the presidential primary idea in Colorado. The thought was that the primary would engage more voters, pulling them toward the Republicans as the nomination phase gave way to the general election phase of the presidential election cycle. But on the other side, there is a group of folks also interested in winning elections but only with the right kind of candidate; in this case, a conservative one.

Again, this pragmatism versus purism divide is not unique to the Republican Party. It is a phenomenon that arises from time to time in any party. It has in Colorado and the presidential primary idea was a casualty.

...of that intra-party dispute and a maintenance of the status quo nomination system. [That latter factor is really under appreciated sometimes.]

Hat tip to Don Means for passing news of this along to FHQ.

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