Monday, February 11, 2019

Arkansas Lawmaker Signals a Scaling Back of Presidential Primary Legislation

Last week legislation was filed in Arkansas to move the presidential primary in the Natural state from May into February on the date tentatively set aside for the New Hampshire primary.

Regardless of the pedestrian challenge to the position of the always nimble presidential primary in the Granite state, Arkansas breaching February in 2020 would carry with it certain penalties from the national parties. And losing half of the Democratic delegation and around two-thirds of the Republican delegation to the national conventions looks to be enough to deter any further push to maximize the position of the Arkansas primary in 2020.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Garner is already reconsidering the date of the primary:
In its current form, Senate Bill 276, sponsored by state Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, would set the primary election in February 2020. But Garner said Thursday that he aims to move the primary election to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March, which would be March 3, 2020. Garner said he plans to fix the bill with an amendment today. 
The 2016 primary election "had a lot of energy and candidates coming here, and I think it worked out well for everybody involved," he said. Trump was among those coming to the state. 
"Let's have that same success," Garner said. 
"We are determining through the committee process whether to make [the March primary] permanent or not," Garner said. SB276 is in the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee. 
"My thought process is we should [make it permanently held in March] because it was so successful. But that will be determined by the committee," Garner said. "I am very open to listening to the will of the body and the committee to determine if that's what we need to do to move forward." 
State Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb said the party supports Garner's legislation. 
"The change allows us to comply with party rules in the selection of delegates to the [Republican National Convention]," Webb said in a text message to this newspaper.
[NOTE: Webb is not only the Arkansas Republican Party chairman but the general counsel to the Republican National Committee as well. In other words, a rebuke of the February primary option was inevitable from the chief interpreter of the RNC rules.]

As FHQ pointed out last week, these moves have never come easily in Arkansas because they have typically meant moving the whole consolidated primary up with the presidential primary. That appears to be problematic for at least one subset of officeholders (or prospective officeholders). Arkansas judges will also be on the ballot on the date of the presidential primary, but the runoff for those elections would not be until the November election. Adding nearly three months would greatly increase the general election campaign for judicial candidates.


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Related:
2/6/19: Out of Arkansas, An Apparent Challenge to the New Hampshire Primary

2/16/19: Amendment to Arkansas Bill Eyes March for Presidential Primary Move


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