Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pennsylvania Parties Not That Open to Presidential Primary Change

The proposed shift of the Pennsylvania presidential primary from April to March raised eyebrows in both major parties in the Keystone state.

The resistance has less to do with the presidential primary than it does with moving the all of the primaries -- presidential primary included -- from the fourth Tuesday in April to the third Tuesday in March.1 As FHQ often mentions, creating a separate presidential primary has its costs -- funding an all new election -- but shifting around a consolidated primary also has costs. In that instance, however, the cost is not directly financial. Take the recent discussion in Nevada over a proposed consolidated primary scheduled for the end of February. Concerns there tended to revolve around the idea state legislators would be affected. Their renominations would be pushed to earlier points on the calendar. That would trigger even earlier campaigning and an even longer general election process. Elongating the primary and general election phases for state legislators requires raising and spending more money.

There are financial costs, then, in moving a consolidated primary, but in that case the burden is shifted from the state to the legislators. Over the years, that has tended to produce some reservations among those state legislators. In turn, that often leads to inaction and an unchanged primary date.

This may or may not affect the yet-to-be filed presidential primary bill in Pennsylvania. But, as James P. O'Toole at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, this is an old dilemma in the Keystone state and a move that does not have the support of the two state party chairmen:
"I have not been supportive of changing the primary date because of the way it affects so many other people,'' said Rob Gleason, the chairman of the state Republican Party. "You'd have to change the date of for petition circulation … You'd be circulating petitions in January and February. I've always kind of resisted that.''

"I see no reason right now to change it, from the Democratic side,' said Jim Burn, the Democratic state chairman. "It throws everything out of whack; people are going to have to start a very complex series of events during the holidays … The costs and the complications far outweigh any benefits.
Bill sponsor, Representative Keith Greiner (R-43rd, Lancaster) claims to have bipartisan support for the move, but shifting the [presidential] primary will likely have to overcome some resistance.

1 FHQ spoke with Rep. Greiner's spokesperson, Eric Reath, last week and he confirmed that the proposed bill would move the full consolidated primary to March and not create a separate presidential primary.

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