Saturday, March 03, 2007


For awhile now, Florida lawmakers and political activists have been discussing the pros and cons of moving our presidential preference primary, traditionally held in March, to the earlier of February 5 or one week following New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary. State Senator Jeremy Ring (D - Margate) has filed a bill for consideration of the earlier date, and told the St. Petersburg Times political blog The Buzz he believes that most of his collegues support the bill.

However, at least one powerful legislator is not singing the same chours.

State Senator Lee Constantine (R - Altamonte Springs) is Chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, which would consider any bill on the subject. He favours a mid-February date, which would likely be after the nominations have already been wrapped up.

Constantine tells The Buzz:

"It’s just a question of looking at the various options and getting it done right...I’m looking at other options outside just Feb. 5 or one week after New Hampshire...There are many people who think the earlier you do it favors those who have the most money because Florida’s such a big state."

The issue is that Florida is a large, diverse state, and under the current system we have little or no influence as to who the major party nominees will be. Senator Ring's bill would at least give Florida a certain amount of influence, forcing candidates to pay attention to the Sunshine State and issues close to Floridians.

Actually, I like my own idea better.

If it were up to me, I would have five regional primary or caucus dates, three weeks apart, with the last date being five weeks before the earlier of the two major party nominating conventions. In 2008, that would be the Democratic convention, which begins on August 25. The schedule would be rotated each election cycle so that one state or region would have no advantage as to when their caucus or primary would be held. Using the 2008 cycle as an example, my plan would be scheduled this way:

--- Tuesday, April 29: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Conneciticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Deleware

--- Tuesday, May 20: Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maryland, Virginia, Missouri

--- Tuesday, June 10: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas

--- Tuesday, July 1: Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado

--- Tuesday, July 22: Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona

While candidates could still travel across the country, this schedule would encourage them to focus on the region forthcoming, and would become more knowledgeable on issues important to that area and address those issues.

Of course, this system would require a great deal of cooperation between officials on the state and federal level, too much to make it really workable.


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