Sunday, September 27, 2015

Trouble Seems to be Brewing in North Carolina

North Carolina may or may not be a microcosm of the national Republican Party, but one thing is for sure, the disagreements between the two chambers in the North Carolina General Assembly are not confined to just the legislature. Now, Governor Pat McCrory and the Republican Party in the Tar Heel state are involved, and the presidential primary is at the heart of at least one of the feuds (for lack of a better term).

The controversial presidential primary legislation that narrowly passed the House after a less contentious trip through the Senate last week has drawn the ire of both the governor and the North Carolina Republican Party. Neither is seemingly pleased with the rider added to HB 373 during conference committee stage that has opened the door to legislative caucuses creating campaign committees to raise money (thus circumventing the state parties). That raises the potential for a veto though Governor McCrory can allow the bill to become law without his signature as well. A veto would mean that North Carolina would not shift into a March 15 primary date and would end up non-compliant with Republican National Committee delegate selection rules (tethered to the South Carolina Republican primary).

To top it all off, the North Carolina Republican Party Executive Committee voted over the weekend to stick with the proportional delegate allocation method the party has traditionally used throughout much of the post-reform era. Assuming that HB 373 is signed or becomes law, that would be at odds with the new primary law that calls for a winner-take-all allocation of delegates. As FHQ explained then:
Finally, the winner-take-all language would come into some conflict with the rules of the North Carolina Republican Party regarding delegate allocation if passed. The party rules do defer to both national party rules and state statute (which the winner-take-all provision would be if passed and signed into law), but do call for the proportional allocation of national convention delegates based on the results of the presidential primary. Yet, RNC rules give precedence to state party rules in those cases of these types of disputes. And while those issues between the state party rules, the national party rules and the likely new state statute have not necessarily been squared, there are no signs of any storm clouds on the horizon. The state party is not raising any concerns over this legislative change at this point. And it is unlikely to with the RNC deadline to finalize delegate selection plans looming next week.
Well, now it appears there are some storm clouds. The bill, should it become law, does not provide cover to the state party because the only out is if there is a conflict with national party rules. If North Carolina had, by law, a winner-take-all, March 15 presidential primary, then that winner-take-all allocation would be compliant with the RNC rules. There is no national party violation there. Thus there would be no out for the North Carolina Republican Party under the presumed law. And unless the North Carolina Republican Party Executive Committee changed the wording of the party rules deferring to state statute, then it is stuck with a winner-take-all allocation.

Well, it is stuck unless the state party wants to take the state to court over the presumed new law. That route costs money and also takes time. Both are important, but with an election looming, that is potentially more time than is likely needed to keep the decision of the primary in limbo. The outcome is likely to favor the party -- freedom of association and all -- but the bigger question is the wait for all interested parties concerned. Keep in mind the filing window for the March 15 primary is set for the first three weeks of December. If that February option for the presidential primary comes back on the table, that pushes things up in to November at least another three weeks.

The other option is to take the conflict to the RNC credentials committee heading into the national convention next summer. RNC rules give precedence to state party rules over state law, so the NCGOP could likely argue effectively to retain a proportional allocation of its national convention delegation. However, that task would be all the more difficult if the party rules specifically state that it defers to state law.

If it was not already a mess, one could call all of this messy. But this just got a little messier.

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The last thing the North Carolina GOP needs is a winner take all Primary.

Missouri GOP made the right choice by switching.

Ohio & Florida GOP may very well regret its choice of winner take all.

Josh Putnam said...

Some in the RPOF already regret it, but they did not have the votes -- and by a significant margin -- to change it a couple of weeks ago.